Arthur J. Villasanta – Fourth Estate Contributor
Washington, DC, United States (4E) – The White House remains unclear if the term “denuclearization” bandied about by South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in their meeting at Pyongyang means what they think it means.
The Trump administration, however, now wants in on the action and is ready to “immediately” restart denuclearization talks with North Korea that have gone nowhere since the widely lampooned summit between Kim and Donald Trump in Singapore on June 12.
Moon and Kin agreed to take steps towards “denuclearization” to promote “a land of peace” after their summit in Pyongyang on Sept. 19. They also issued the “Pyongyang Joint Declaration,” one of whose provisions is the “permanent dismantlement” of North Korea’s main nuclear production facility at Yongbyon near the border with China.
The declaration might also allow international inspectors to observe the disassembly of an engine test site. Moon said the United States, a non-player in this latest meeting between Moon and Kim, needs to reciprocate the declaration in some way.
Kim, however, made the offer to dismantle Yongbyon contingent on the U.S. taking “corresponding measures.” He didn’t specify what these measures should be.
“The North Koreans want reciprocal action. What is that reciprocal action? They don’t specify so we don’t know,” said Sue Mi Terry, a former senior CIA Korea analyst now at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies. “It is more than a peace declaration — a peace treaty, we have a problem.”
The Pyongyang Joint Declaration signed by Moon and Kim offers more specifics than the hazy Singapore Declaration signed by Kim and Trump. In it, Moon and Kim agreed to “cooperate closely in the process of pursuing complete denuclearization of the Korean peninsula,” but again without spelling out the exact meaning of denuclearization.
Experts said denuclearization to North Korea signifies a phased process of mutual confidence building and arms control that will involve major U.S. concessions. It in no way means the unilateral disarmament of North Korea as demanded by Trump. The declaration made no mention of a deadline as to when denuclearization will be completed.
Kim and Moon also agreed to collaborate on a bid to host the 2032 Summer Olympics. Kim said he “promised” to visit Seoul “in the near future.”
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