U.S., North Korea should expedite negotiations toward denuclearization

The Yomiuri ShimbunThe latest summit meeting was unusual, as it was held at a place that symbolizes the divided Korean Peninsula. How should an appeal for the easing of tensions by the U.S. and North Korean leaders be utilized to achieve North Korea’s denuclearization? It is important to produce tangible results.

U.S. President Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un, chairman of the Workers’ Party of Korea, held talks at Panmunjom, which lies along the military demarcation line. They agreed to resume working-level talks between their nations for North Korea’s denuclearization.

The previous summit talks in February were broken off, as North Korea demanded the removal of sanctions imposed on it in exchange for its partial denuclearization. In May, North Korea launched short-range ballistic missiles. The latest summit meeting can be praised for halting an exacerbation of the situation and creating a trend toward bilateral dialogue.

It was of no small significance that the United States demonstrated its intention to play a leading role in dealing with the North Korean problem, at a time when Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping followed one another in having talks with Kim, with a view to expanding their influence in this respect.

The question is whether working-level talks can be brought on the right track at last. The United States and North Korea are said to be setting up a negotiation team, aiming to start talks within two or three weeks.

After the U.S. and North Korean leaders reached an agreement to completely denuclearize the Korean Peninsula during their first summit in June last year, working-level talks were repeatedly frustrated.

Maintain sanctions

The United States has demanded North Korea declare and dismantle all its nuclear weapons and facilities. North Korea pledged to stop producing nuclear weapons and conducting nuclear tests, but it has not referred to the dismantlement of its existing nuclear weapons.

By utilizing the diplomatic efforts of the leaders to make a fresh start, it is necessary to close this gap through working-level talks. The two countries also need to work out the details of the technical matters involved, such as procedures for denuclearization and verification methods.

Using his twitter account, Trump urged Kim to hold a meeting with him and he made it happen. He became the first sitting U.S. president to enter North Korea. With a U.S. presidential election set for next year, Trump also aimed to emphasize his latest meeting as a historic achievement.

Making an easy compromise must be avoided. It is essential to maintain the sanctions on North Korea until it takes action to denuclearize itself. It is also indispensable to cope with North Korea’s short- and medium-range ballistic missiles, which threaten Japan’s security.

North Korea’s state media trumpeted the latest summit talks, saying, “A new history of reconciliation and peace has begun.” It is safe to say that Kim has succeeded in enhancing his prestige. Will he be able to maintain a close relationship with Trump, however, while putting off his country’s denuclearization as in the past?

In reference to Trump’s entry into North Korea, Kim praised the move as “a very courageous and determined act” that will “bring an end to the unpleasant past.” If he wants to normalize relations with the United States and conclude a peace agreement, Kim should take measures to lessen his country’s nuclear and missile threats and to stabilize the region.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 2, 2019)Speech


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