13 June 2020   Leave a comment

North Korea has ended its negotiations with the US government on the possible denuclearization of the Korean peninsula. The negotiations started two years ago, and President Trump at that time believed that his personal relationship with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un had defused a very dangerous situation. Despite meeting twice in Singapore and Hanoi, the two never really understood each other. President Trump insisted that North Korea get rid of all its nuclear weapons, offering economic aid as an incentive. Leader Kim insisted that denuclearization included US access to nuclear weapons on the peninsula, ending the security arrangements the US had with South Korea. The North Korean Press Agency, KCNA, issued the following statement by Ri Son Gwon, Minister of Foreign Affairs of DPRK:

“A total shutdown of the northern nuclear test site, repatriation of scores of American POW/MIA remains, special pardon for the convicted felons of U.S. nationality who were held in detention – all these measures taken by our Supreme Leadership are indisputably significant ones of epoch-making resolve.

“Especially, we made a strategic determination whereby we took an initiative for suspending nuclear test and test launch of ICBMs in order to build confidence between the DPRK and the U.S.

“Such being the case, we should now turn to examining what has been done for the last two years by the United States, a party to the agreement, who has very often expressed gratitude for our measures of high determination.

“’No testing, getting remains.’

“’Hostages returned.’

“These are what the master of the White House representing the United States of America reeled off time and time again as a boast.”

The statement goes on:

“In retrospect, all the practices of the present U.S. administration so far are nothing but accumulating its political achievements.

“Never again will we provide the U.S. chief executive with another package to be used for achievements without receiving any returns.

“Nothing is more hypocritical than an empty promise.”

The fact that North Korea has decided to end the talks does not come as a surprise. Over the last few months it has tested a variety of missiles, being careful not to test an intercontinental ballistic missile or to test a nuclear bomb. Those tests were designed to elicit a response from the US to move the negotiations forward but they achieved little. The response of the US to those tests was tepid and non-committal. Significantly, Kim’s sister, Kim Yo Jong, issued her own statement via KCNA which explicitly threatened action against South Korea:

“Getting stronger day by day are the unanimous voices of all our people demanding for surely settling accounts with the riff-raff who dared hurt the absolute prestige of our Supreme Leader representing our country and its great dignity and flied rubbish to the inviolable territory of our side and with those who connived at such hooliganism, whatever may happen.

“The judgment that we should force the betrayers and human scum to pay the dearest price for their crimes and the retaliatory action plans we have made on this basis have become a firm public opinion at home, not part of the work of the field in charge of the affairs with enemy.

“It is necessary to make them keenly feel what they have done and what inviolability they hurt amiss.

“It is better to take a series of retaliatory actions, instead of releasing this kind of statement, which those with bad ears may miscalculate as the ‘one for threatening’ or from which they can make any rubbishy comments on our intention as they please.

“I feel it is high time to surely break with the south Korean authorities.

“We will soon take a next action.

“By exercising my power authorized by the Supreme Leader, our Party and the state, I gave an instruction to the arms of the department in charge of the affairs with enemy to decisively carry out the next action.”

Robert Carlin, writing for 38North, argues that the new North Korean policy is quite deliberate and strategic:

“This announcement builds on the anti-South Korea statements and media campaign that began on June 4 with Kim Yo Jong’s statement—her third so far this year, and her second aimed at South Korea. Kim’s statement was followed by an unusual statement issued by the party’s United Front Department, which in turn was followed up by commentaries in the party newspaper Rodong Sinmun and the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), and an ongoing series of rallies by front groups. This campaign seems too nicely choreographed, and too clearly aimed at the North Korean domestic audience, to believe that Pyongyang was acting on impulse simply in response to a single balloon incident.”

Unfortunately, even if the new policy is deliberate, we still do not know exactly what it means. June 15 will mark the 20th anniversary of the first inter-Korean summit. It may be the occasion for a new missile test or some other demonstration of North Korean capabilities. But, unless it is extremely provocative, it is unlikely that the US will respond in a measured manner. The Trump Administration has not distinguished itself by a measured or coherent foreign policy.

Posted June 13, 2020 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

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