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INTERNATIONAL > East Asia & Pacific

Discrepancy in ROK, DPRK English translation of Panmunjom Declaration betrays DPRK intent

At the inter-Korean summit in April, ROK President Moon Jae-in and Workers’ Party of Korea Chairman Kim Jong Un agreed on the goal of “complete denuclearization” of the Korean Peninsula under the Panmunjom Declaration. While this document did not spell out the concrete steps in this process, the English translation of the document by the state-owned Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) betrayed North Kores’s “true intent” on denuclearization.


North Korea used the term “nuclear-free zone” in the passage “turning the Korean Peninsula into a nuclear-free zone through complete denuclearization,” while the ROK government’s translation did not have the word “zone.”


Associate Prof. Hideki Okuzono of the University of Shizuoka, who specializes in contemporary ROK politics and diplomacy, offers the analysis that North Korea purposely used the word “zone” because it “intends to make the U.S. and others pledge not to use or threaten the use of nuclear weapons on the Korean Peninsula.”


Although the U.S. declared in 1991 the withdrawal of all tactical nuclear weapons from South Korea, including those possessed by U.S. Forces Korea, North Korea has continued to be suspicious. It regards the U.S.’s “nuclear umbrella” for the ROK to be a security threat and has repeatedly protested the participation of strategic bombers with nuclear capability in the U.S.-ROK joint military exercises.


Okuzono argues that, “Now that it has declared the completion of its national nuclear force and is in the process of acquiring ICBM capability to attack the U.S., North Korea believes that hitherto negotiations requiring it to abandon its nuclear arsenal unilaterally are no longer acceptable. There is a crucial discrepancy with the U.S.’s demand for North Korea’s “complete, verifiable, and irreversible denuclearization (CVID)” even before U.S.-DPRK talks have started.


The U.S. has cited the Libya Model as a successful example of CIVD. Under this scheme, the U.S. lifted its economic sanctions after Libya’s elimination of nuclear devices was verified.


However, it is a widely held opinion even among U.S. experts that it would be difficult to apply this model for Libya, which was still in the initial stage of developing nuclear arms, to North Korea, which may already possess up to 30 nuclear weapons. Even U.S. President Donald Trump indicated on June 1 that North Korea can “take its time,” virtually shifting from his earlier policy of accomplishing CVID in a short time. (Slightly abridged)

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