U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Monday that there are a range of issues around timing and sequencing of denuclearization and promises for brighter future can be made only after the verified denuclearization of North Korea. It was the answer to Pyongyang, which suggested to dispose nuclear facilities in Yongbyon in exchange for lifting its all sanctions.
The standoff between the U.S. and North Korea is prolonged as the two countries differ on whether they would go for a big deal or a small deal, or a total solution (complete solution) or sequential actions. The South Korean government has suggested a “good enough deal” only to create a stir. Under such circumstances, it would be difficult to even resume negotiations, let alone reaching an agreement. The Washington-Pyongyang prolonged standoff could spell emotional conflicts and verbal warfare, or even armed protests and all-out war.
Before these concerns become a new reality, the two countries should reach an agreement for denuclearization. Denuclearization cannot be done overnight, but mutual trust and will can accelerate the process. Having a blueprint is pivotal to shorten the process. The two countries should reach a grand agreement, which includes a blueprint and processes for denuclearization.
For that, North Korea that has been refusing to make an agreement needs to change its attitude. The sequential measure that North Korea argues for is to have separate negotiation for each step. That requires many rounds of summits until it finally denuclearizes. The Hanoi summit breakdown was a result of this stance. The two heads of state could neither reach an agreement on any step of denuclearization nor create a roadmap.
Doubts on North Korea’s sincerity have arisen when it only suggested discarding the nuclear facilities in Yongbyon as the initial step to denuclearize. If the North Korean regime has a will to denuclearize, it needs to demonstrate a complete nuclear freeze. The North said its final goal was “complete denuclearization,” which was a just rhetoric without any concrete measures. No country would agree to negotiate if it only asks for sanctions relief without promising complete nuclear disarmament.
The U.S. remained open to continuing discussions with North Korea, but it would not wait forever. Pyongyang should not lose credit any longer by engaging in brinkmanship in vain. Kim Jong Un must make a decision anytime soon. It is the only way to guarantee “brighter future” for North Korea by cutting a concrete deal with the U.S.