North Korean leader Kim Jong-un presides over a meeting of the North Korean Workers’ Party Central Committee Politburo on Apr. 9. (KCNA/Yonhap)
During a recent working-level meeting between North Korea and the US working toward the summit between North Korea leader Kim Jong-un and US President Donald Trump in late May or early June, the North reportedly made a specific proposal to the US of a plan to “resolve the military threat and guarantee the security of the regime” consisting of five or so concessions to compensate North Korea for denuclearization.
On Apr. 11, multiple sources in Washington, D.C. who are familiar with the current state of North Korea and the US discussion about the summit said that during a recent meeting with the US, North Korea asked the US to remove its nuclear and strategic assets from South Korea, stop the deployment of nuclear and strategic assets during joint military exercises with the South, guarantee that it will not make a conventional or nuclear attack, convert the armistice agreement into a peace treaty and normalize diplomatic relations.
During this meeting, North Korea reportedly did not ask for the withdrawal of American troops from the Korean Peninsula and indicated that it would not do so in the future either if the security of its regime was guaranteed. The prediction has been made in some quarters that the North would ask for the removal of American troops as a way to guarantee the regime’s security.
“North Korea clearly stated its commitment to the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, and it made clear that it has no reason to possess nuclear weapons if the military threat to the North is resolved and the regime’s security is guaranteed,” said Chung Eui-yong, director of the Blue House National Security Office and the head of a special delegation to the North, in a statement to the press on Apr. 6 following his meeting with Kim Jong-un. This has caused attention to focus on how the military threat can be resolved and the regime’s security guaranteed, as North Korea has requested.
The US is also reportedly open to the idea of making a peace treaty and normalizing relations with North Korea provided that the North is definitely committed to denuclearization. But given the US’s commitment to avoiding the failure of previous talks, it is reportedly determined to shorten the timeframe for denuclearization as much as possible to prevent the North from stalling.
When asked about the Trump administration’s deadline for denuclearization, one source said, “It’s basically about a year from now. But once the negotiations get underway, there’s a possibility of this being extended for two years or so because of technical issues.” The US is reportedly determined to complete denuclearization by the end of 2020 at the latest, when the next US presidential election will be held.
Multiple sources in Washington, D.C. said that only the “deadline for denuclearization” and the “basic principles of denuclearization and rewards” will be settled during Kim and Trump’s summit and that the concrete roadmap will be discussed during later working-level talks. During a meeting with South Korean foreign correspondents in Washington on Apr. 10, a senior government official said that Trump and Kim’s summit would be different from previous summits in that they would be reaching a big-picture agreement during their summit and that the details would be negotiated in later meetings.
As for the location, the two sides are reportedly still engaged in a tug-of-war between Pyongyang and Washington. It appears that holding the summit in South Korea is less likely than before.
Chung Eui-yong meets with new US National Security Advisor John Bolton
Chung Eui-yong, who arrived in Washington on the morning of Apr. 11, met with John Bolton, the newly appointed White House National Security Advisor the following day. The purpose of the meeting was to trade opinions about the inter-Korean summit on Apr. 27 and Kim and Trump’s summit in late May or early June and to coordinate their approach to those summits. Securing a line of communication with Bolton, who took office on Apr. 9, was a primary objective of Chung’s visit to the US.
“Chung Eui-yong held a preliminary discussion with the US National Security Council on the afternoon of Apr. 11 and [met] with John Bolton on the morning of Apr. 12,” Blue House spokesperson Kim Eui-kyum said.
Chung was expected to explain the South Korean government’s plan for the three main items on the agenda of the inter-Korean summit – namely, denuclearization, a peace treaty and the advancement of inter-Korean relations – as well as provide information about trends in North Korea. He also likely offered advice about negotiating strategies that could be helpful for the North Korea-US summit. Chung will also be coordinating the South Korea-US summit that will be held between the inter-Korean summit and the North Korea-US summit.
Prior to the Senate confirmation hearing for Mike Pompeo, the nominee for US Secretary of State, on Apr. 12, the White House released some excerpts from his opening statement. In the excerpts, Pompeo said, “There is no higher diplomatic task for the State Department team than solving this decades-in-the-making threat [North Korea’s nuclear program] to our nation… I have read the CIA histories of previous negotiations with the North Koreans, and am confident that we will not repeat the mistakes of the past. President Trump isn’t one to play games at the negotiating table—and I won’t be either.”
By Yi Yong-in, Washington correspondent and Seong Yeon-cheol, staff reporter
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