2018: Kim Jong-Un's Pass and Trump

Peace Network Korea
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Kim Jong-un's Pass and Trump's Reverse Dunk

Written by
Wooksik Cheong, Director of PN
Chaewon Moon, Research Assistant of PN

This article is about an overall analysis on 2018 United States-North Korea Summits. The author explains hostile US-NK relation as a main cause for failure in dealing with NK nuclear issue. Based on the US-NK joint statement, he evaluates the event as a milestone that would turn around US-NK relations and change nuclear dynamics in Korean Peninsula.

Peace on the Korean Peninsula can be completed only when three pillars are properly erected. The first pillar is a normalization of South Korea-North Korea(NK) and US-NK relations, a repeated cycle of good and bad terms. Second is to substitute the 65-year lasting armistice regime to a peace regime and the last one is a “complete denuclearization of Korean Peninsula.” These purposes are reflected in Panmunjum Declaration. Surprisingly, the provisions in US-NK joint statement are structured and ordered in the exact same manner. The accordance suggests a tremendously significant implication.
However, when the US-NK joint statement in Singapore went public, the majority of the press and experts sharply criticized the result of the meeting. Mainly because the statement stays at the level of “Complete Denuclearization”, not including an expression of CVID(Convertible, Verifiable, and Irreversible Denuclearization), some experts argue that a resolution of NK nuclear issue is now off the table and some even claim NK virtually is now a nuclear state.
First of all, these claims are self-contradictory. When Chairman Kim Jong-un suggested the Summit and President Donald Trump accepted on the fly in March 2018, people who supported the claims credited Trump for his ‘maximum pressure’ strategy. To those people, the result of the US-NK joint statement could be extremely shocking. As much as they argued Trump’s pressure brought Kim to the negotiating table humbled, the statement should have been written in favor of US. In fact, it comprehensively contains what NK has long been demanding.
More importantly, these claims are originated from people’s blindness to the nature of the Korean Peninsula nuclear issue. I firmly believe that the US-NK joint statement is the paramount agreement for NK nuclear issue resolution. It is not only because this statement is the first agreement between US-NK summits. This short length statement penetrates the essence of the NK nuclear issue, containing a direction of comprehensive resolution. Previous agreements prioritized the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula to build a peace regime and US-NK normalization. However, for this time, agreed provisions are structured in order of a new establishment of a US-NK relationship, building a peace regime on the Korean Peninsula, and the complete denuclearization of Korean Peninsula. Borrowed from a basketball analogy, Kim passed the ball and Trump finished with a reverse dunk. Yet, most of the media and experts missed this great spectacular.
This historic event carries a significant implication. It shows the two summits’ decision and willingness to change the condition of soil on the US-NK relations that has bred a poisonous mushroom, namely a nuclear NK. For the past 25 years, a fundamental reason of failure in NK nuclear resolution lays upon the toxic environment. In other words, an effort to uproot a toxic NK nuclear issue without dealing the agenda of the hostile US-NK relationship and an armistice agreement on the Korean Peninsula has been meaningless. As this is the case, often the toxic mushroom is not perfectly removed or repeatedly spread out to somewhere else. However, this time the two summits finally decided to get rid of old virulent soil and start with a new fresh nutritious soil. By doing so, they chose a method that the poisonous mushroom eventually disappears.
In the statement, the two summits “recognize that mutual confidence building can promote the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula” and at the same time “establish new US-DPRK relations” and “join efforts to build a lasting and stable peace regime on the Korean Peninsula.” These parts of the statement implicate that the US both recognizes and admits that the NK nuclear issue fundamentally lies upon the hostile US-DPRK relationship and the truce regime, thus only normalization of the currently abnormal diplomatic environment can accomplish “complete denuclearization.” As many as 25 years were needed for an old paradigm to be turned around. This transition implies a new open door for Kim Jong-un that leads to an ‘honorable denuclearization.’
One more thing, since the statement does not contain CVID, a possibility of “complete denuclearization” greatly increases. Understanding this self-contradiction is very important. First, let me clarify one thing; the press evaluates the Summit as a failure or a half-success, pointing out ‘Verifiable and Irreversible’ is excluded from a dialogue of denuclearization. In fact, this non-bilateral or multilateral agreement involving NK has contained a notion of CVID and also NK has never agreed to the expression included in agreements. Resultantly, the Trump administration has agreed to “Complete Denuclearization”, not enforcing CVID to the end. Why? There are two reasons. One is that sticking to CVID could raise the chance of Summit cancellation.
A more fundamental reason exists. What the Trump administration desires most is a ‘Fast Denuclearization.’ Speaking of arms control agreement, ‘Completeness’ is basically a concept that involves verification. Therefore, the expression “Complete Denuclearization” incorporates ‘Verifiable’ from CVID. This is a point that Trump and Pompeo have been stressing. Moreover, Kim Jong-un and Trump will “commit to implement the stipulations in this joint agreement fully and expeditiously.” A keyword here is “expeditiously.” If I were asked to choose the most crucial word from the statement, I would relentlessly pick this one. Trump using the word “quickly” numerous times in the press conference can be understood in this context. Under the circumstance, importuning ‘VI’ is suicidal for the Trump administration. If Trump had been determined to incorporate the expression ‘CVID’ in the statement, the Summit might have been canceled. Or even if it had proceeded as planned, a controversy over the definition and the expectation that expression carries would have worked as an obstacle for the following negotiation. This option conflicts with the Trump administration’s most prioritized goal, the fast denuclearization. At the end, Trump chose what he thought was practical.

This article was written by Wooksik Cheong(director of PeaceNetwork) and Chaewon Moon(research assistant of PeaceNetwork.) Any individuals or organizations are free to study, cite, publish and distribute the article with a reference of PeaceNetwork website(http://peacekorea.org/zbxe/?mid=Eng_main) If you have any questions regarding to the article please contact Chaewon Moon( moonchaewon07@gmail.com)

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