With the new year comes the next chapter in the ongoing talks between the United States and North Korea regarding denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. North Korean tyrant Kim Jong-un gave his annual New Years address this week, during which he tossed out some hints and suggestions as to what we should expect going forward. Much of the international attention has been on whether the anticipated second summit between Kim and Donald Trump was going to take place and the diminutive dictator addressed that subject.
So will there be another meeting? Kim says he’s up for it, but he has some “conditions” which need to be met first. (WaPo)
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un renewed his commitment to denuclearization Tuesday and said he was ready to meet President Trump for a second time, but he warned the United States not to “misjudge” his patience.
In a closely watched, nationally televised annual New Year’s Day speech, Kim balanced a willingness to talk with a reminder that North Korea has its own demands if the peace process and denuclearization talks are to succeed.
In particular, he demanded that South Korea end joint military exercises with the United States, and warned Washington that if it continues to maintain sanctions and pressure, Pyongyang could walk away from the negotiating table.
So Kim wants an end to any joint military exercises between South Korea and the United States, as well as having all the sanctions lifted before he’ll talk about getting rid of his nukes. That should be a non-starter based on everything that Donald Trump has said over the past year, effectively jettisoning any reason for having another summit in the first place. Kim’s history of going back on his word once he gets what he wants should rightly be seen as enough reason to flush this idea until he can be brought further into compliance.
But that quote above was just the portion of the speech released for western consumption and part of an obvious public relations effort. To get a better look into Kim’s mind we should see what he was saying to his own people during the rest of his remarks. The Associated Press has a good rundown of all the major points he made, translated into English, and it’s well worth a look.
Two-thirds of the speech was focused entirely on the economy, with plans for greater domestic energy production and the availability of electricity in more of the country. (He also mentioned nuclear power plants, which should give you an idea of his intentions.) As far as opening up to the west and joining the normal circles of diplomatic engagement, Kim was almost entirely silent on Donald Trump and the United States. He focused all of his plans – and praise – on South Korea, touting their renewed relationship and progress on ending the war. He wants to restart the railways that used to connect the two countries and improve trade.
But what about the nukes? That’s where the real kicker comes in. While Kim is suggesting to the western press that denuclearization of the peninsula is still on the table, he was telling his own people that he might be interested in “a possible cap on nuclear weapons production if the U.S. takes equivalent steps.”
A cap? That’s not denuclearization. That’s Kim deciding to stop blowing money on more missiles and warheads so he can focus on his own economy while keeping his arsenal in reserve. While I hate to start the new year on a down note, I’ve yet to see any sign that Kim Jong-un is acting as an honest broker in these negotiations. He’s getting all sorts of positive attention these days, China is relaxing sanctions and there’s more money and oil flowing into North Korea. And in exchange for all of that, Kim has given up precisely nothing and doesn’t appear to be planning any sort of concessions. In short, we’ve probably been played yet again.