North Korea: We're not giving up our nukes unless U.S. troops leave the peninsula

As if we there weren’t already enough foreign policy drama happening today, North Korea announced that it has no intention of following through on an agreement to denuclearize unless the U.S. removes U.S. soldiers from the region. From the Associated Press:

North Korea for decades has been pushing a concept of denuclearization that bears no resemblance to the American definition, with Pyongyang vowing to pursue nuclear development until the United States removes its troops and the nuclear umbrella defending South Korea and Japan. In Thursday’s statement, the North made clear it’s sticking to its traditional stance on denuclearization. It accused Washington of twisting what had been agreed on in Singapore and driving post-summit talks into an impasse.

“The United States must now recognize the accurate meaning of the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, and especially, must study geography,” the statement said.

“When we talk about the Korean Peninsula, it includes the territory of our republic and also the entire region of (South Korea) where the United States has placed its invasive force, including nuclear weapons. When we talk about the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, it means the removal of all sources of nuclear threat, not only from the South and North but also from areas neighboring the Korean Peninsula,” the statement said…

The statement could jeopardize a second Trump-Kim summit as the United States may have difficulty negotiating further if the North ties the future of its nukes to the U.S. military presence in the South, analysts said.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in, who met Kim three times this year and lobbied hard for the Trump-Kim meeting, has said Kim wasn’t demanding the withdrawal of U.S. troops from the Korean Peninsula as a precondition for abandoning his nuclear weapons. But Kim has never made such comments in public.

The AP says we haven’t had any tactical nukes in South Korea since the 1990s but the U.S. does have bombers and submarines nearby that constitute the so-called “nuclear umbrella.” So, contrary to what the South Korean president is claiming, it seems Kim does consider the presence of U.S. troops in the region to be a “nuclear threat.” Trump has said he is willing to hold another summit with Kim Jong-un early next year despite the fact that the North hasn’t shown any progress on its commitments at the last summit. From the NY Times:

“They have not lived up to the commitments so far,” Mr. Bolton said. “That’s why I think the president thinks another summit is likely to be productive.”

Mr. Bolton was referring to a pledge that the North Korean leader made in June at his first face-to-face meeting with Mr. Trump in Singapore. At the time, Mr. Kim said North Korea would work toward “complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.”

But in the nearly six months since the Singapore summit meeting, which Mr. Trump heralded with a tweet declaring North Korea “no longer a Nuclear Threat,” Pyongyang has continued its production of nuclear fuel and weapons, and steadily improved its missile capabilities.

This is definitely looking like an I-told-you-so moment for skeptics of Trump’s effort at diplomacy with Kim Jong-un. To be fair, we did get some remains of U.S. soldiers returned and some hostages released. So it’s fair to say this hasn’t been a complete loss. Still, it hasn’t accomplished much in terms of the big goal, i.e. removing the threat of North Korean nuclear missiles which are now capable of striking almost the entirety of the United States.

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