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A Rare Chance for Peace: North Korea Willing to Discuss Denuclearization

March 7, 2018
Jason Ditz / AntiWar.com & Jeff Mason and Christine Kim / Reuters

In comments that could potentially have significant ramifications on convincing the US to join talks with North Korea, South Korean delegation envoys say they were told by Kim Jong-un that the North is willing to discuss scrapping their nuclear arsenal. The White House has long suggested scrapping the nuclear program and missile development as a precondition for talks. North Korea seems very willing to discuss the subject within the talks, and has offered to disarm if the US agrees to halt its threats.


North Korea Willing to Discuss
Denuclearization for Security Assurances

Kim says no reason to keep nukes if military threat ends

Jason Ditz / AntiWar.com

(March 6, 2018) -- In comments that could potentially have significant ramifications on trying to convince the US to join talks with North Korea, South Korean delegation envoys say they were told by Kim Jong-un that North Korea is willing to discuss scrapping their nuclear arsenal.

The White House has long suggested scrapping the nuclear program and missile development as a precondition for talks, and clearly that's not going to happen, but North Korea seems very willing to discuss the subject within the talks, and would disarm if given the right deal.

South Korea's statement quoted Kim as making it clear North Korea "would have no reason to keep nuclear weapons if the military threat to the North was eliminated." North Korean officials have made comments to this effect in the past, but telling it to the South Korean delegation shows its a clear message intended to be sent to the US as an inducement to talk.

This makes sense, as North Korea has always presented its nuclear arsenal as a deterrent to an American attack. Getting a trustworthy guarantee that the US isn't going to attack them in the future is clearly a big deal for North Korea, but is it attainable?

That's less clear, with President Trump and other administration officials saying there is "possible progress," but also downplaying the chances of an actual deal, suggesting they don’t believe North Korea would deliver on such a proposal.

One unnamed administration official seemed to take the position that this wouldn't be enough for talks, saying denuclearization of North Korea in "non-negotiable," suggesting it remains a precondition.

Advancing Ties, North Korean Leader
Makes Agreement With South

Sides will reduce tensions, work toward a summit

Jason Ditz / AntiWar.com

(March 5, 2018) -- Substantial progress was made Monday in Pyongyang, where a South Korean delegation met with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on day one of a major two-day discussion on continuing to improve diplomatic relations.

North Korea's state media even reported that the discussion included an agreement reached between the two sides, though exact details on what was agreed upon were not made public. Among the things agreed to, however, was to continue to work toward a summit in which Kim and South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in would meet.

The delegation in Pyongyang now, and the North Korean delegation to South Korea's Winter Olympics weeks ago were both among the highest profile diplomacy between the two Koreas in history. A direct summit, however, would be truly unprecedented.

The main goal of the South Korean visit, however, is to try to lay the groundwork for direct diplomacy between the US and North Korea. The South Korean delegation is scheduled to travel directly to the US after ending the North Korean visit, and will be briefing top US officials on the progress made, trying to coax along more diplomatic progress.

Whether that's going to be possible or not remains to be seen, as President Trump's Saturday speech, in which he demanded that North Korea "de-nuke" as a condition for talks, suggests North Korea’s willingness to have talks without precondition may not be enough to entice the administration to the table.

Trump Calls North Korea 'Sincere' on
Possible Nuclear Talks, Others Skeptical

Jeff Mason and Christine Kim / Reuters

WASHINGTON/SEOUL (March 5, 2018) -- Feeling the pressure of sanctions, North Korea seems "sincere" in its apparent willingness to halt nuclear tests if it held denuclearization talks with the United States, President Donald Trump said on Tuesday as US, South Korean and Japanese officials voiced skepticism about any discussions.

Trump declined to say whether he had any preconditions for talks with Pyongyang as officials in the United States, South Korea, Japan and China responded with caution and guarded optimism to the possibility following months of insults and threats of war between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

"I think that they are sincere. And I think they're sincere also because of the sanctions and what we’re doing with respect to North Korea, including the great help that we've been given from China," Trump said at a news conference after meeting with Prime Minister Stefan Lofven of Sweden, which represents US interests in North Korea.

Word of possible talks was delivered by a South Korean delegation on its return from a first-ever meeting with North Korean leader Kim in Pyongyang on Monday.

A senior Trump administration official said, "We are open minded, we look forward to hearing more. But . . . the North Koreans have earned our skepticism, so we're a bit guarded in our optimism." The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said "our posture toward the regime will not change until we see credible moves toward denuclearization."

Routine US military exercises with allies in the region would resume, the official said. The next US-South Korean exercises are expected in April.

Some US and South Korean officials said a breakthrough on the Trump administration's top national-security challenge remained unlikely after the failure of previous talks, adding that North Korea may be trying to buy time to develop its weapons programs and seek relief from punishing American and UN sanctions.

More than 10 hours since Seoul made the announcement, there was no comment from Pyongyang.

Earlier, Trump told reporters in the Oval Office as he met with Lofven that the United States had "come a long way, at least rhetorically" with North Korea and "statements coming out of South Korea and North Korea have been very positive."

Asked if he had any preconditions for talks, Trump said, "I don't want to talk about it. We're going to see what happens."

US Vice President Mike Pence said the United States would continue to apply "maximum pressure" on North Korea and that all options were "on the table" until Washington sees evidence that the reclusive country was taking steps toward denuclearization.

Lofven said Sweden could provide a channel for the main parties grappling with the North Korea nuclear issue because of its longtime diplomatic relations with Pyongyang. "It is not up to us to solve the problem but with our presence . . . if the key actors ask us to help we can be there," Lofven told the news conference.

Next month, North Korea and South Korea will have the first meeting between their leaders since 2007 at the border village of Panmunjom, said Chung Eui-yong, head of the South Korean delegation.

"North Korea made clear its willingness to denuclearize the Korean peninsula and the fact there is no reason for it to have a nuclear program if military threats against the North are resolved and its regime is secure," Chung told a media briefing.

Chung cited North Korea as saying it would not carry out nuclear or missile tests while talks with the international community were under way. North Korea has not carried out any such tests since last November. North Korea also is willing to discuss normalizing ties with the United States, Chung said.

Japanese Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera told reporters late on Tuesday that "it is necessary to assess whether the North-South summit will really lead to the (North's) abandonment of nuclear and missile development."

Tensions have eased significantly on the Korean peninsula since the Winter Olympics in the South last month, even though the countries are technically still at war because their 1950-53 conflict ended in a truce rather than a peace treaty.

Since North Korea pulled out of so-called six-party denuclearization talks in 2009, Pyongyang has developed new nuclear capabilities. It tested its largest-ever intercontinental ballistic missile in November, which it said could reach all of the US mainland.

China encouraged North and South Korea to continue reconciliation efforts.

Despite skepticism about Pyongyang’s intentions, the prospect of talks represents a significant potential development after heightened tensions and rhetoric between Kim and Trump, who last August threatened "fire and fury" if the North threatened the United States again.

White House national security adviser H.R. McMaster and other Trump administration officials are due to meet this week with South Korean officials, including the South Korean national security adviser, two White House officials said.

Global stock markets rose on the news about North Korea. The broadest gauge of shares, MSCI's All Country World Index, rose 0.7 percent.

North Korea has vowed never to give up its nuclear program, which it calls a "treasured sword" against a possible US invasion. The United States stations 28,500 troops in South Korea but denies any invasion plans.

If Pyongyang demands the departure of those troops, that could render any summit talk impossible, a South Korean government official said. "If the North were to move things forward, they would present something more realistic and doable," said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

In Washington, US intelligence officials said it was too early to assess North Korea’s willingness on denuclearization.

"Hope springs eternal but we need to learn a lot more relative to these talks. And we will," US Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats told a Senate Armed Services hearing.

Lieutenant General Robert Ashley, director of the US Defense Intelligence Agency, told the same hearing he did not share a sense of optimism, adding, "That/s kind of a 'show me,' and so we'll see how this plays out."

Reporting by Jeff Mason in Washington and Christine Kim in Seoul; additional reporting by Hyonhee Shin in Seoul, Ben Blanchard in Beijing, Linda Sieg in Tokyo and John Walcott, Matt Spetalnick, David Brunnstrom, Ayesha Rascoe, Roberta Rampton, Eric Walsh and Susan Heavey in Washington; Writing by Andy Sullivan and Grant McCool; Editing by Yara Bayoumy, Will Dunham and James Dalgleish

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.




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