North Korea’s Nuclear Program Isn’t Going Anywhere. Written before the Vox scoop, but still relevant.
There’s been a certain je ne sais quoi quality to the White House’s discussion of the summit between Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un. Today we learned what it is.
President Donald Trump told North Korean leader Kim Jong Un during their Singapore summit in June that he’d sign a declaration to end the Korean War soon after their meeting, according to multiple sources familiar with the negotiations.
This was number one on Kim’s wish list. And Trump gave it to him, free for nothing. Read More
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had a meltdown last night after he had earlier claimed the talks with North Korea were “productive” and made progress “on almost all of the central issues,” followed by North Korea’s blast at “unilateral and robber-like denuclearization demands as [complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization (CVID)], declaration and verification that go against the spirit of the North-U.S. summit meeting.”
Pompeo returned that if the US is behaving like a gangster, then so is the rest of the world, referring to United Nations resolutions that North Korea disarm. (One Korean speaker says that “robber” is a better translation than “gangster.”) He then went on to say that North Korea did not have an issue with CVID, directly contradicting North Korea’s statement of its position. He also went back to the importance of “maintaining maximum pressure” on North Korea, after Donald Trump had backed off from that phrase. Read More
Observe how gracefully I avoided the unclear word denuclearization by saying what I mean. Another area of disagreement is in how long it would take to remove North Korea’s nuclear weapons and eliminate or repurpose the facilities that develop and build them. And we don’t know what North Korea thinks about that.
John Bolton estimated that it would take a year. The Institute for Science and International Security estimates 30 months. A study by Siegfried Hecker, Robert Carlin, and Elliot Serbin at Stanford’s Center for International Security and Cooperation estimates as long as 15 years.
Why the big differences? Read More
Or: Another Day In The Trump Administration
There are two very different narratives of what is happening in the negotiations with North Korea.
- As Kim Jong Un promised in his New Year’s Day address, North Korea is building up its capacity to manufacture nuclear weapons and the missiles they might ride on. In the past week, we have seen evidence from the national intelligence agencies and independent analysts that there are at least two clandestine uranium enrichment plants, a missile manufacturing plant is being expanded, and related production is being expanded. This narrative is held by all the US intelligence agencies and most independent experts on North Korea and nuclear weapons.
- North Korea has agreed to give up its nuclear weapons program. Full denuclearization can be completed in a year or less. Kim and Donald Trump saw eye to eye at the Singapore summit. Kim wants to improve the North Korean economy, and he understands that only by giving up his nuclear program can he expect sanctions to be lifted. This is a victory for Trump’s policiy of “maximum pressure.” This narrative is held in public by Trump, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and National Security Advisor John Bolton.
The primary issue that is being negotiated with North Korea is its nuclear weapons and the missiles they might be mounted on for attacks on the United States and its allies, South Korea and Japan. A meaningful agreement will have to include many technical issues.
Donald Trump and Mike Pompeo are not nuclear or rocket scientists, nor can we expect most politicians to be. But the technical facts are no less difficult to learn than the economics. (Oops! They get that wrong, too. I will push forward anyway.) Pundits commenting on the negotiations and people who simply want to understand may find this list useful. Read More
Joint Statement of President Trump and Kim Jong Un. The North Koreans have issued their own readout, but the US has not issued one of its own beyond statements to the press from Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. North Korean tv also featured a documentary, in which, among other things, Donald Trump salutes a North Korean army officer. Photo from The Guardian. Read More
What is wrong with Donald Trump’s approach to the summit with North Korea. Trump: “I am the only one who matters.” And he’s not preparing. Technical unknowns in verifying North Korea’s nuclear program. History of negotiations with North Korea. North Korea seems to be destroying a missile test stand. Like the nuclear test site, this is a significant symbolic action but may be easily reversible.
These demands for results from the North Korean summit by Senate Democrats sound like they could have come from John Bolton. Bad idea. Richard Haas breaks down how the negotiations should work but probably won’t.
By me in Pakistan Politico: The Illogic of Regime Change.
Many good points here about foreign policy realism. But the realists often carry it too far.
This is somewhat beyond the usual for Nuclear Diner, but it’s the only article I’ve seen that does a good job of explaining what college is likely to cost. Spoiler: it’s related more to family income than to the institution.
Kim Jong Un doesn’t want American businesspeople running all over his country. He wants sanctions lifted. It’s always a bad idea not to understand what your negotiating partner wants. This article is from a few days ago, but it’s a good summary of Japan’s and China’s concerns.
Background on Kim Yong Chol, who delivered a letter from Kim Jong Un to Donald Trump. Kim Yong Chol is at center in the photo.
To nobody’s surprise, it looks like North Korea pulled everything that might have any technical use out of the Punggye-ri test site before they sealed the entrances to the tunnels. Photos of the destruction. Before and after overhead images. Siegfried Hecker thinks it is a positive move.
Comprehensive historical database of North Korea’s nuclear program from Hecker and his co-workers at CISAC. From that history, Hecker predicts it will take 15 years to denuclearize North Korea. The Institute for Science and International Security thinks it will take much less time, but they forego verification for the first 18 months. This is odd, because they are among the most vocal proponents of unlimited inspections in Iran.
New book: The Future of Nuclear Power in China, by Mark Hibbs.
Long Read: We are going to need truth and reconciliation commissions, or something like them, after Trump. Here is one way that might be done.