Zhu Feng, Director of the Institute of International Relations at Nanjing University:
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s visit to Pyongyang on July 6-7 is the latest example to show that Kim Jong-un is “not ready yet” to dismantle nuclear weapons. The sharp discrepancy between the two sides in their comments and their viewpoints on conditions is not unexpected at all as North Korea obviously prefers to take denuclearization as a long game to trade for what it wants, such as diplomatic normalization, a security guarantee, lifting of sanctions and financial remedies.
In fact, the Trump-Kim summit meeting at Singapore and their joint statement failed to precisely elaborate on under what conditions and in what order denuclearization could be achieved. In other words, should North Korea’s denuclearization acts precede diplomatic normalization, or should security guarantees from the U.S. come first? More importantly, the Singapore summit did not result in any agreements on a definition of denuclearization.
President Trump must be feeling bitter from his interactions with his counterpart Kim Jung-un. Contrary to his comments, it appears that Pyongyang hasn’t genuinely changed its mindset of holding nuclear weapons while seeking gains by dangling verbal pledges of giving up its nuclear weapons. It’s replaying old tricks we have witnessed more than two decades.
The international community now is at the crossroads on how to act on denuclearization of North Korea. One option is that we can retreat from current diplomatic détente and return to “maximum pressure” and military intimidation. The other option is to maintain diplomatic engagement until the Kim Jong-un regime is almost ready to change its reclusive country as well as changing its nuclear policy.
This definitely means a significant makeover of denuclearization objectives – putting time-lined benchmarks towards denuclearization behind and turning to continuous contact with North Korea and striving to pull North Korea out of its reclusiveness firmly and gradually. Thereby, denuclearization could be insured after real change has taken place with North Korea. Presumably, denuclearization is an outcome of sequential changes with North Korea rather than the precondition which will frame up our policy input. But my question is this: Can this second option conceivably win international consent?