The Moon-Kim Summit

South Korea’s President Moon Jae In met yesterday with North Korea’s President Kim Jong Un in Pyongyang, North Korea’s capital. They participated in a parade and discussed the future of the Korean Peninsula.

It’s best to rely on the official English translation of their joint statement, rather than statements for the news media or by third parties. The Korean version is more reliable, but I don’t understand Korean. Here’s the part about North Korea’s nuclear program.

  1. The two sides shared the view that the Korean Peninsula must be turned into a land of peace free from nuclear weapons and nuclear threats, and that substantial progress toward this end must be made in a prompt manner.
  • First, the North will permanently dismantle the Dongchang-ri missile engine test site and launch platform under the observation of experts from relevant countries.
  • The North expressed its willingness to continue to take additional measures, such as the permanent dismantlement of the nuclear facilities in Yeongbyeon, as the United States takes corresponding measures in accordance with the spirit of the June 12 US-DPRK Joint Statement.
  • The two sides agreed to cooperate closely in the process of pursuing complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

The bottom line is that much more negotiation that includes the United States is necessary. Specifically,

the North will permanently dismantle the Dongchang-ri missile engine test site and launch platform – This is a positive step, but North Korea has developed mobile launchers for its missiles, including the intercontinental missiles that can reach the United States. Building a new test site would not be difficult.

under the observation of experts from relevant countries – Again, a positive step to include experts. North Korea explicitly excluded experts from observing the tunnel closures at its nuclear test site. But “experts” and “relevant countries” remain undefined. Defining them will require more negotiation.

The North expressed its willingness to continue to take additional measures – Willingness is not action, which is fine as long as we understand that.

as the United States takes corresponding measures – The North has insisted on an action-for-action program in which they take a step, and then the United States takes a step. This is not unusual in building confidence between adversarial nations. So far, the United States has insisted on large measures from the North with no promise of specific action from the United States. Look for statements from Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on this subject. If he insists on complete denuclearization or a list of North Korea’s nuclear facilities, things are going nowhere. What constitute “corresponding measures” will require more negotiation.

the permanent dismantlement of the nuclear facilities in Yeongbyeon – North Korea has promised this before. Since it depends on the United States taking “corresponding measures,” it’s unlikely to happen any time soon. The common spelling in the United States is Yongbyon. It’s the obvious central nuclear facility for North Korea. Are there others? We don’t know.

in accordance with the spirit of the June 12 US-DPRK Joint Statement – Donald Trump talks about a handshake and personal understandings. North Korea talks about the Joint Statement. The DPRK is doing what is normally done in diplomacy. Secret personal agreements are no part of it.

The two sides agreed to cooperate closely in the process of pursuing complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula – “Complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula” is a standard formula describing an ideal situation in the far future. It’s good to have this kind of long-term goal stated. So far, the United States has taken that phrase to mean unlateral disarmament by North Korea. Again, look for Secretary Pompeo’s statement on this.

Trump’s statements so far have been relatively moderate. Moon is playing a skillful game to try to involve Trump, which will be necessary as talks proceed. Kim is playing a skillful game to keep his nuclear weapons and his power.

 

Photo credit

 

Cross-posted to Balloon Juice.

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