- North Korean leader Kim Jong Un appears to be making huge concessions before meeting with President Donald Trump or South Korean President Moon Jae-in.
- Kim’s apparent caving in to US desires could be the result of Trump rallying the world to put financial and military pressure on North Korea, or it could be a trick, as North Korea has tricked the US into allowing it sanctions relief before.
- Much of the recent news around Kim’s intentions hasn’t actually come from Kim but from Moon, who may have an interest in softening North Korea’s rhetoric.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un appears to be making huge concessions before meeting with President Donald Trump or South Korean President Moon Jae-in.
Moon said on Thursday, after South Korean diplomats held a series of meetings with Kim and his inner circle, that North Korea essentially wanted nothing in return for ridding itself of nuclear weapons.
According to Moon, North Korea wants “complete denuclearization” of the Korean Peninsula. While experts usually take that to include a removal of US forces from South Korea, Moon said that was not the case.
“I don’t think denuclearization has different meanings for South and North Korea – the North is expressing a will for a complete denuclearization,” Moon said during a lunch with chief executives of Korean media companies, according to Reuters.
Moon went on to say North Korea wouldn’t be asking the US to do much in return for denuclearization.
“They have not attached any conditions that the US cannot accept, such as the withdrawal of American troops from South Korea,” Moon said. “All they are talking about is the end of hostile policies against North Korea, followed by a guarantee of security.”
Essentially, according to Moon, all North Korea wants is the US to promise it will not attack it and end the sanctions and other forms of overt pressure.
Why that may be too good to be true
For North Korea, these statements represent an about-face. North Korea has for decades defended its pursuit of nuclear weapons as a means to deter a US invasion.
North Korea has spent decades criticising the US for its military presence in South Korea, and it routinely complains about military exercises the US holds with South Korea, sometimes launching missiles during the events.
Additionally, North Korea has entered into and exited out of denuclearization and peace talks several times in the past, each time leaving the US frustrated after gaining much-needed cash in the form of sanctions relief. None of the many experts contacted by Business Insider doubt that stalling for sanctions relief may be Kim’s game this time around too.
Consider the messenger
Moon is not an impartial messenger when communicating North Korea’s stance to the world. Moon won office on a progressive platform that promoted talks and engagement with North Korea.
With many Korean families divided by the war and the armistice that technically still has not ended it, Moon also faces pressure to reunite the two Koreas.
Seoul, South Korea’s capital of some 25 million people, also stands to be the hardest-hit city if war struck between the US and North Korea.
While Trump and Moon maintain that their alliance is ironclad and they’re committed to peace, Trump’s new national security adviser, John Bolton, has argued extensively in favour of bombing North Korea, rarely mentioning how many South Koreans could die in a counterattack.
Maybe Trump really did nail it
Though talks with North Korea have failed before, a few things are different this time. North Korea recently announced the completion of its nuclear intercontinental ballistic missile program, which experts say it can use as a bargaining chip in negotiations. With all tests completed and what North Korea believes is a working missile capable of hitting the US with a nuclear payload, Kim may now be motivated to talk.
Kim is also younger than his father, Kim Jong Il, was when he entered talks with the US, and he is possibly more open to changing his country. He has already allowed markets and capitalism to creep into the country, and he recently allowed South Korean pop bands to play a show, which he reportedly loved.
Today, North Korea is under greater sanctions pressure than ever before. Andrea Berger, an expert on North Korean sanctions at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies, told Business Insider it had become virtually impossible to do any business with North Korea that wouldn’t violate international sanctions. Fuel prices are way up in the country, and reports of the people becoming disenchanted with their strict leadership roll in frequently.
Perhaps above all, North Korea has never faced a US president who spoke so candidly, and so often, about bombing it. To an extent unlike that of his predecessors, Trump has made North Korea a top priority and portrayed himself as a leader willing to go to the insane length of nuclear war to disarm it.
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