One can almost hear the chortling of past administrations from George H.W. Bush through that of Barack Obama. The media says it appears Donald Trump’s peace initiative with North Korea’s dictator is falling apart.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo left North Korea on Saturday after two days of nuclear talks. The question now is whether that isolated country is remotely serious about denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.
Is North Korea Hedging?
Could it be they are simply seeking relief from crippling international economic sanctions and other concessions from the U.S?
If so, will that work with President Donald Trump? The answer is – doubtful – but what are the options?
First of all the Trump administration needs to look at history. What caused the previous administration’s failure to succeed in negotiations with the North Koreans? For one thing, unlike Obama’s talks with Iran, North Korea’s nuclear program is far more advanced.
North Korea has developed fissile materials production, with both plutonium production reactors and uranium enrichment facilities. That outshines any ambitions the Iranians have even dreamed about. North Korea has the vital ingredients for nuclear bombs and can produce scores of them.
Now they are on the precipice of a delivery system capable of reaching the West Coast of the U.S. Does Kim want to quash that dream?
The U.S. has attempted to ensure the permanent removal of all operational nuclear warheads from North Korea; that includes existing fissile material. This would include both plutonium and enriched uranium.
Unlike the Iran agreement that did not specify development, it is a must for clear and concise disarmament. The technologies and infrastructure must be dismantled. Otherwise there will be spinning centrifuges and advanced centrifuge technology. That means a quick start-up later on if necessary.
The deal in 1994, under President Clinton, allowed the regime to maintain a portion of its plutonium stockpile. That was a huge mistake. The Trump administration must demand elimination of all fissile material production in North Korea. That includes any covert facilities that can create new fissile material.
Our eyes are wide open
Talks Still on Track
This is a huge undertaking. Mike Pompeo says there is more to do, but they are still on track.
From the outside, it appears the Trump administration thought they could fix this with simple talk. Have they now learned what four past administrations already learned? Or is it really different this time?
Here is what Donald Trump said after signing documents with Kim Jong-Un, three weeks ago. “Today is the beginning of an arduous process. Our eyes are wide open. Peace is always worth the effort.”
The media and naysayers say the agreement is falling apart, but Pompeo said “We spent a good deal of time talking about [timeline for denuclearization and WMDs] and I think we made progress on every element in our discussion.”
President Trump also said “The sanctions will remain in effect.”
Kim Jong Un must agree to more comprehensive disarmarmament under international scrutiny.
The U.S. must also ensure that Kim remains out of the proliferation game. That is, no more coordinating with terrorist countries like Iran. Trump must understand the hard lessons of the past. The stakes are high, and the game is slow. The world is watching.