The Trump administration will soon have to come up with a new policy toward North Korea, and the most serious issue for the new President should be the resolution of the nuclear issue.
There have been growing voices calling for a new U.S. policy toward North Korea, and if we understand the fundamental motives of North Korea’s nuclear armament from a new perspective, I firmly believe that the North Korean nuclear issue can be resolved peacefully. First, let us take a closer look at why the DPRK has strengthened its nuclear arsenal.
PYONGYANG’S BASIC MOTIVATIONS
The DPRK has succeeded in the miniaturization and diversification of its nuclear weapons through five nuclear tests, and has also been successful in launching short and intermediate-range missiles such as the Pukguksong-2 and SLBM (submarine-launched ballistic missile). North Korea has also developed its second-strike capabilities, and, by the year 2020, it is the opinion of many experts that it will have a nuclear power status.
If we understand the logic of North Korea as a nuclear power, we know that North Korea cannot easily abandon its nuclear program. But while some argue that North Korea will never give up its nuclear weapons, but this does not seem convincing.
Kim Jong Un has said that the work to carry out “the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula” is the legacy of his grandfather Kim Il Sung and his father Kim Jong Il, and he has said that if he can ensure the survival and security of the North Korean regime, there is no need for Pyongyang to have nuclear weapons.
North Korea cannot easily abandon its nuclear program
The Trump administration needs to understand that UN sanctions and pressure on North Korea have not persuaded North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons so far. Why? Because the fundamental motivation for North Korea to pursue nuclear armament comes from the security instability of the North Korean regime.
But how can we end this siege mentality? The cause of the North Korean nuclear policy is the pressure placed on it by the international community, especially what it believes to be the U.S.’s “hostile policy” toward the DPRK.
In order to induce North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons program, the U.S.-ROK governments must end their sanctions and pressure on the DPRK, and map out a new roadmap for the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and peaceful cooperation in Northeast Asia.
Meanwhile, North Korea has emphasized its commitment to resuming the Six-Party Talks without preconditions to discuss issues on the Korean peninsula. These talks could play a key role in denuclearizing Korea – measures to induce a change in North Korea’s behavior through sanctions and pressure policies by hard-liners have clearly not been effective.
There is no reason to reconsider that the South and the North should be the key players in resolving the Korean Peninsula issue
CONDITIONS FOR NORTH KOREAN DENUCLEARIZATION
We need to take heed of a DPRK policy statement issued on July 6, 2016, regarding denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.
Pyongyang has made five demands for the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula: 1) the disclosure of all nuclear weapons the U.S. has brought into South Korea, 2) the dismantlement and verification of all the nuclear weapons and U.S. military bases in South Korea, 3) assurance that the U.S. will never deploy nuclear strike means in the Korean peninsula and its vicinity, 4) promise to not use nuclear weapons against North Korea and 5) a declaration that U.S. troops in South Korea will withdraw.
The fifth demand is significant. The DPRK’s demand for “a declaration of the withdrawal of U.S. troops in South Korea,” not an immediate withdrawal, appears to be a policy change in Pyongyang’s stance on U.S. troop presence in South Korea. The new stance fits with Kim Jong Il’s position on the issue when he said, “it is desirable to maintain U.S. troops in the Chosun Peninsula for the purpose of peacekeeping, and not for its antagonistic stance against us.”
An exploratory but strategic dialogue among the U.S., the DPRK, and ROK could begin by examining some of these demands.
As it stands, it seems there are five core conditions for nuclear abandonment: the most important is normalization of South-North Korean relations through constructive dialogue. There is no reason to reconsider that the South and the North should be the key players in resolving the Korean Peninsula issue, and the normalization of inter-Korean relations cannot be achieved without negotiation through mutual concessions and compromise.
How will North Korea give up nuclear weapons without constructive dialogue between the two Koreas? In order to normalize the relationship between the ROK and the DPRK as sovereign states, the two Koreas must sign a basic treaty between Seoul and Pyongyang, and the two Koreas should establish representative offices in each capital.
Secondly, cross-recognition between the two Koreas and the four powers (the U.S., China, Russia and Japan) needs to take place. Although the South Korean government will be celebrating the 26th anniversary of diplomatic normalization with China and Russia this year, normalization of diplomatic relations between North Korea, South Korea, the U.S. and Japan is yet to take place. This needs to change.
The normalization of inter-Korean relations cannot be achieved without negotiation through mutual concessions and compromise between the South and the North
Third, the most important variable for peace and stability in Northeast Asia is maintaining a cooperative relationship between the U.S. and China. The U.S.-China cooperation system is a crucial variable for solving the Korean peninsula’s issues, as well as stabilizing the Northeast Asian region. Maintaining a U.S.-China cooperation system can be a key variable that allows North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons: conflict between the U.S. and China remains an incentive for North Korea not to give up its nuclear weapons because of perceived instability in Northeast Asia.
Fourth, a Korean peninsula peace treaty signed by the four parties (the two Koreas, the U.S., and China) will be key to the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula. In the near future, the four parties could discuss the North Korean nuclear issue in exchange for a conclusion of a Korean peninsula peace treaty.
Fifth, the Six-Party Talks that have been moribund for the past eight years must be resumed.
The denuclearization of the Korean peninsula can be realized with mutual concessions among all the concerned parties, particularly the United States, DPRK, ROK, and China.
There will be no peace if North Korea does not disarm, and there will be no peace if the U.S. and South Korea do not compromise.
Edited by Oliver Hotham
Featured image: Rodong Sinmun
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