North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has been personally given a written and expanded American definition of “complete denuclearization” by U.S. President Donald Trump, U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton said in an ABC interview on Sunday.
In addition to calling for the “elimination of their nuclear weapons program,” however, Bolton said the U.S. “from the beginning” also wanted “chemical and biological weapons in the elimination of their weapons of mass destruction” and “their ballistic missile program ended as well.”
When asked by ABC anchor Martha Raddatz whether North Korea understood denuclearization in the same way, Bolton said Trump had “handed Kim Jong Un a piece of paper – actually two pieces of paper, one in English, one in Korean, that laid it out.”
“I’m not going to tell you it was word for word, and I don’t have the piece of paper in front of me to check it, but that is in the substance what it said,” Bolton said when pushed on the definition’s contents.
The ABC interview did not make it specifically clear when Trump provided Kim the printed definitions, but American calls for the elimination of North Korea’s chemical, biological and ballistic missile weapon systems emerged first in post-Hanoi summit remarks by Bolton.
“If North Korea commits to complete denuclearization– including its ballistic missile program and its chemical and biological weapons programs, the prospect of economic progress is there,” Bolton said last week.
That comment drew attention from many in the North Korea-watching community, due to its marking a notable difference from the language used by U.S. Special Representative Stephen Biegun in remarks delivered at Stanford University in January.
At the time, Biegun said the U.S. was interested “in a roadmap of working-level negotiations” which would focus primarily on the elimination of facilities in North Korea’s nuclear sector.
Only after steps exclusively addressing the nuclear domain would the U.S. “need to ensure the removal and destruction of stockpiles of fissile material, weapons, missiles, launchers, and other weapons of mass destruction.”
But despite the Special Representative’s stated interest in pursuing a roadmap-format to negotiations, at a post-Hanoi March 7 background briefing a “Senior State Department Official” — widely understood to be Biegun — said that “nobody in the administration advocates a step-by-step approach.”
“In all cases, the expectation is a complete denuclearization of North Korea as a condition for all the other steps being – all the other steps being taken.”
And subsequent remarks suggested that this would involve DPRK elimination of chemical, biological, and ballistic weapons programs.
“The President has made abundantly clear to Chairman Kim that he’s personally invested in taking North Korea in this direction if North Korea gives up all of its weapons of mass destruction and the means of delivery,” the unnamed official elaborated.
However, the prospect of North Korea receiving no concessions until satisfying such a widely defined U.S. version of “full denuclearization” – the unilateral elimination of all its nuclear, chemical , biological and ballistic missile facilities – appears unrealistic to many analysts.
“Until North Korea has reason to think the U.S. definition of denuclearization has changed, it has no reason to reconvene working-level talks,” said Ankit Panda, a contributing analyst with NK Pro.
But speculating why the Hanoi summit may have fallen apart, Panda said Washington’s expanded definition of denuclearization “may have played a role,” but said that “we should also take note of Ri Yong Ho’s comment that U.S. demands for an expansion of sites beyond Yongbyon played a role.”
At a press conference following the collapse of Hanoi talks, DPRK foreign minister Ri said “during the meeting, the United States insisted that we should take one more step beside the dismantlement of nuclear facilities in Yongbyon area.”
Though he didn’t specify what the U.S. had requested, neither remarks by Ri or Vice Foreign Minister Choe Son Hui – also present at the press conference – drew attention to Washington’s goal to also eliminate biological, chemical and ballistic missile programs.
“The North Korean and American stated accounts of (summit) collapse diverge,” Panda said.
Edited by Oliver Hotham
Featured image: White House
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