South Korean President Moon Jae-in, who is currently visiting Singapore to participate in the ASEAN summit, met U.S Vice President Mike Pence on Thursday. Moon said that it was entirely the strength of South Korea–U.S. alliance that drew North Korea into talks and created the current situation. The reason why this remark seems to be welcoming, albeit its obviousness, is out of the hope that difference in opinions between South Korea and the United States over sanctions against North Korea becomes resolved.
Mr. Pence said that he expects a lot from the second meeting with North Korea and would like to work to ensure peace and security of the Korean Peninsula. This implies that the United States will assist in building a peace regime if North Korea shows efforts in denuclearization such as submission of reports. Vice President Pence, however, told President Moon, “We need to achieve complete, verifiable, irreversible, denuclearization (CVID). We had made meaningful progress but much work remains.” Mr. Pence also said that he will not repeat mistakes, saying, “We have made over the last several decades where promises are made, sanctions are lifted, economic support comes and then promises are broken.”
Indeed, there seemed to have been unfathomable changes this year but there was hardly any substantial progress in denuclearization. It has been revealed that North Korea only halted additional nuclear and missile tests and continued its nuclear and missile activities. In particular, when the intelligence committee of the National Assembly made inquiries Tuesday on whether North Korea was still continuing to prepare to reduce the size and weight of nuclear warhead for scud missiles, the National Intelligence Service admitted, assuming that is the case.
The only power to lead the current North Korea into denuclearization is, as President Moon pointed out, South Korea–U.S. alliance and sanctions against North Korea that is operated under the uniform stance of the international community. The problem is, however, that the international community is showing different opinions over sanctions on North Korea. “If there are some progress in North Korea’s measures to denuclearization, actions corresponding to such should follow,” President Putin told President Moon during comprehensive discussions over alleviation of sanctions on Tuesday.
Of course, the crack between South Korea and the United States will not emerge any time soon as U.S. President Donald Trump will most likely focus on making achievements in his negotiation with North Korea. Alleviating sanctions is not gaining much support within the international community because of the United States’ strong stance over sanctions against North Korea. Once power games are initiated, however, between North Korea and the United States over what to give and take, the different views of South Korea and the United States is likely to undermine negotiation powers on North Korea and inflict a crack in their alliance. In the event a conflict composition is formed, with South Korea, China, and Russia on the one side and the United States and Japan on the other, this will immediately lead to the regression of North Korea’s denuclearization.