The Yomiuri Shimbun
How will the United States and North Korea fill the gap exposed at the recent summit talks? Both countries should create an environment to resume talks so that North Korea’s denuclearization will not come to a standstill.
After the talks between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, chairman of the Workers’ Party of Korea, were broken off, the situation has become increasingly uncertain.
At a recent press conference, North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Choe Son Hui suggested that North Korea will not accept the U.S. denuclearization demands. She also said Kim plans to soon announce whether Pyongyang will continue its suspension of nuclear tests and missile launches.
It has been confirmed that a missile test facility in Tongchang-ri in northwestern North Korea was restored and its operation is back to normal. Kim promised to halt nuclear tests and dismantle test facilities. North Korea’s move to heighten tensions again and demand concessions from the United States cannot be overlooked.
If North Korea could easily restore the operation of the facility it had begun to dismantle, the reliability of the voluntary denuclearization process carried out by the country is nearly nonexistent. It is vital to establish an international framework to inspect and monitor the process.
A U.N. expert panel points out in its annual report that North Korea is continuing its nuclear and missile development programs, while proceeding with denuclearization negotiations with the United States. It also reveals that North Korea gained illicit profits from smuggling and cyber-attacks in attempts to skirt sanctions.
Unless North Korea stops such acts, and changes its tactics of demanding the lifting of sanctions in return for its denuclearization in stages, it is unlikely that there will be any progress in the negotiations.
Shore up deterrence
The United States needs to continue using diplomacy while maintaining its policy of not easing sanctions against Pyongyang until it steps up measures to realize complete denuclearization.
If China and South Korea try to mediate between the United States and North Korea to get talks restarted, they should look squarely at the reality in which Kim’s actions do not follow his pledges on denuclearization. They should not only speak for North Korea, but also persuade Kim to implement concrete measures to work toward his pledges.
It is concerning that the United States and South Korea have decided to end large-scale joint military drills, which had taken place every spring. They will replace the drills with largely downsized exercises.
The series of field training exercises and tabletop exercises, which had been run with tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands of troops taking part, were designed to simulate scenarios for dealing with conventional North Korean forces. With smaller drills, it will probably become difficult for the U.S. and South Korean armed forces to maintain their readiness to deal with contingencies. To avoid the deterrence capability from weakening, new measures will be necessary.
In addition to an advantageous effect on easing tensions with Pyongyang, Trump has stressed that ending the drills could save U.S. expenditures. It is inappropriate to judge the pros and cons of security policies only from a cost perspective. Trump should also give consideration to the anxiety felt by U.S. allies, including Japan, over his decision.
(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, March 17, 2019)