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.
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