The Yomiuri ShimbunCan the relaxation of tensions on the Korean Peninsula be achieved through North Korea’s denuclearization? Concrete results are required.
Prior to the first U.S.-North Korea summit meeting in history, which will take place Tuesday, President Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un, chairman of the Workers’ Party of Korea, have arrived in Singapore, the venue for the talks.
Trump is apparently poised to press Kim to make a definite decision, emphasizing the meeting will be a “one-time opportunity.” The objective of the talks is to realize North Korea’s complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization. This stance was confirmed at a recent summit meeting of Group of Seven advanced nations, including Japan and European nations.
Achieving the goal requires the North to accurately declare its nuclear weapons and materials as well as its nuclear-related facilities first, and then to make progress in scrapping them and removing them from that country. This will also call for facilitating arrangements for the International Atomic Energy Agency and other organizations to conduct verification and inspection activities.
The success or failure of the summit meeting will be determined, depending on whether a certain measure of advancement will be achieved in working to draw a roadmap that lays down procedures and deadlines for such measures.
The international community must continue to use sanctions to exert pressure on North Korea until the country takes concrete actions to abandon its nuclear program.
Don’t rush to peace treaty
Kim used a special Chinese plane to arrive in Singapore. There is no doubt that China is showing off its presence as a guardian of the North. There are concerns about China’s influence on the U.S.-North Korea summit.
China, in effect, tolerated North Korea’s unmoving stance on its denuclearization in the past, too. If Kim takes a strong stance at the summit due to the backing gained from China, it will be even more difficult to produce good results in the meeting.
Bearing in mind a lesson learned from the failures of past U.S.-North Korea talks in which only the North gained rewards, Trump should restrain himself from making easy concessions.
Both the U.S. and the North Korean leaders have shown an eagerness to declare an end to the Korean War. The significance of doing so is not small, given that military tensions increased due to North Korea’s nuclear test and its repeated firing of ballistic missiles last year.
A war-ending declaration would serve as a political message that the two countries will seek rapprochement, ending years of being at odds with each other even after the signing of a truce agreement in 1953. This can be regarded as an initial step toward “regime guarantee,” a U.S. pledge sought by the North.
It should be noted that North Korea’s military threats, including ballistic missiles and conventional forces, will not immediately be reduced. It is too early to even discuss concluding a U.S.-North Korea peace treaty, or withdrawing and reducing U.S. forces stationed in South Korea.
Regarding the issue of abductions of Japanese citizens, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has displayed his determination to eventually resolve the matter through efforts by the Japanese and the North Korean leaders. If Kim shows readiness to settle the issue during his talks with Trump, Japan-North Korea summit talks should be considered.