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Editorial: President Trump should urge DPRK to make steady progress toward denuclearization

Will stalled denuclearization talks between the U.S. and DPRK make a big step forward? U.S. President Donald Trump has mentioned that his second summit with DPRK Chairman Kim Jong-un “will be announced soon.” President Trump should urge the North Korean leader to make steady efforts in nuclear dismantlement.


At the opening of his summit with South Korean President Moon Jae-in, President Trump said that a second U.S.-DPRK summit will be held “in the not-too-distant future.” He also noted that he will probably meet with Chairman Kim at a place other than Singapore, where the first-ever U.S.-North Korea summit was held in June. A second round of the U.S.-DPRK leaders’ talks is expected to take place within the year. Attention will be paid to whether the U.S. and North Korean leaders will be able to find a breakthrough in denuclearization.


Chairman Kim made a commitment to complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula during the first-ever U.S.-DPRK summit. More than three months have passed since then, yet no progress is on the horizon. This is primarily because North Korea has not presented its lists of nuclear weapons, nuclear substances, nuclear facilities,and nuclear programs. These are indispensable for U.S.-DPRK talks to make headway as they should serve as an entrance to denuclearization.


North Korea persistently demands the declaration of the end of the Korean War, which would lead to guaranteeing the security of the regime, as the first step to build a relationship of trust with the U.S. In the latest inter-Korean summit, it brushed off denuclearization without conditions, a demand from the U.S. But there is concern that easily agreeing to declare an end of the war could affect regional security and economic sanctions that are put in place by the international community.


To begin with, the U.S. should step up efforts to create a roadmap that requires the North to submit its lists of items related to nuclear development, which has long served as a menace to the international community, including Japan and the U.S., and that urges it to accept nuclear inspections. It would not make sense if the U.S. gave priority to declaring an end of the war with North Korea, South Korea and China before the North took action.  


President Trump welcomed that Chairman Kim referred to the “permanent dismantlement” of the country’s Yongbyon nuclear complex, one of its key nuclear development facilities, with conditions attached. It is encouraging that Chairman Kim is demonstrating leadership in denuclearization, but the empty promise of the dismantlement of the Yongbyon facility alone among nuclear facilities across the country is not sufficient to declare the end of the war.


It is understandable that a declaration of the end of the war would lead to reconciliation between Koreans, but premature action should be avoided. After the end of the inter-Korean summit, Chairman Kim made clear nuclear relinquishment by saying “we will strive  in a proactive fashion to make the Korean Peninsula a peaceful land free of nuclear threat.” President Trump needs to urge him to give shape to this.


The Japanese government takes the position that North Korea’s tangible progress toward denuclearization is a condition to realize a second U.S.-DPRK summit and declare the end of the war. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will meet with President Trump in New York. It is greatly hoped that he will urge the U.S. leader to deal with this issue directly linked to the Japan-U.S. alliance.

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