Kim Jong Un’s end game?

Kim Jong Un’s end game?
South Korean President Moon Jae In has revealed that North Korea is willing to completely “denuclearize”. He has also noted that the nation is willing to do so even without..

South Korean President Moon Jae In has revealed that North Korea is willing to completely “denuclearize”. He has also noted that the nation is willing to do so even without the withdrawal of the US army.

What is North Korea’s end game?

Background

North Korea’s nuclear programme can be traced back to 1962. The country committed itself to what it called "all-fortressization", which was the beginning of the hyper-militarized North Korea of today. Much of its initial programme was set up with the help of then Soviet Union (ally to North Korea). North Korea's nuclear weapons program dates back to the 1980s. It was in 1985 when North Korea ratified the NPT, but it did not include the required safeguards agreement with the IAEA until 1992. It was no longer a signatory of the Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT) as of 2003.

In 2006, after North Korea conducted its first nuclear test, the UN Security Council passed harsh economic sanctions on the region. Resolution 1718 in 2006 demanded that North Korea cease nuclear testing and prohibited the export to North Korea of some military supplies and luxury goods. In addition, the UN Security Council Sanctions Committee on North Korea was established, supported by the Panel of Experts.

However, undeterred, North Korea has continued its nuclear programme. In 2017, it conducted over 20 missile test launches and conducted its sixth nuclear test, which was the nation’s most powerful test yet. According to reports, the country detonated a hydrogen bomb that could be mounted on an intercontinental ballistic missile.

In 2017, the United Nations imposed new sanctions on North Korea. There is now a ban on textile exports and a call to reduce oil imports by 30%. There is also a ban on hiring North Korean workers overseas. There are currently 100,000 North Koreans employed outside of the country. North Korea’s economy would be particularly hit as its trade with China has also been affected. The combined value of North Korea’s 2016 export to China, of coal, iron-ore, lead-ore, and seafood, all of which are now banned, was almost $1.5 billion. This is about 60% of its total exports.

North Korea’s relationship with the US has always been acrimonious; however, the tide has turned in 2018. South Korea currently houses over 25,000 American soldiers as a part of the United States Forces in Korea (USFK).

Analysis

In 2018, the ties between North Korea and South Korea improved. In the wake of successful talks between delegations from both nations, ties between US and North Korea improved as well. After months of escalated tensions, the international community was taken by surprise when it was announced that President Trump would be meeting Kim Jong Un sometime in May 2018.

Most recently it was confirmed that in early April of 2018, the present CIA Director Mike Pompeo had visited North Korea. He is President Trump’s nominee for the next Secretary of State. Trump confirmed noting, “Mike Pompeo met with Kim Jong Un in North Korea last week. Meeting went very smoothly, and a good relationship was formed. Details of Summit are being worked out now. Denuclearization will be a great thing for World, but also for North Korea!”

Now, South Korean President Moon Jae In has told reporters that North Korea is willing to completely denuclearize. He said that the nation had not “attached any conditions that the US cannot accept, such as the withdrawal of American troops from South Korea. All they are expressing is the end of hostile policies against North Korea, followed by a guarantee of security.” He further noted, “North Korea is expressing a will for a complete denuclearization.”

A meeting between Kim Jong Un and Moon Jae In is scheduled to take place next Friday. It will be the first meeting between leaders of both nations in over a decade. Historically, there has never been a summit between a sitting US president and a North Korean leader, though Bill Clinton came close to agreeing to meet Kim’s father, Kim Jong-il, in late 2000. “As you know, I will be meeting with Kim Jong-Un in the coming weeks to discuss the denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula,” the US president told reporters at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida on Wednesday. “Hopefully, that meeting will be a great success and we’re looking forward to it.”

This is not the first time North Korea has expressed its willingness to denuclearize. It has said over the years that it could consider giving up its nuclear arsenal if the US removed its troops from South Korea and withdrew its so-called nuclear deterrence umbrella from South Korea and Japan.

Kim Jong Un made an unofficial visit to China and met with Chinese leader XI Jinping in the midst of these developments. North Korean media has also announced  that Pyongyang is stopping nuclear tests and ballistic missile launches at its only test site, Pyunggye-ri. Analysts believe that this decision may be a significant step towards denuclearisation. However, North Korea has reneged on deals before. Critics believe that with this announcement, North Korea has merely signalled a “freeze” in its program.

Assessment

Our assessment is that the only way to resolve the crisis in the Korean peninsula without resorting to military conflict is through diplomatic dialogue. However, it is likely that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un still has some concerns. As we had mentioned earlier

Kim Jong Un would not want to share the same fate as the former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi. It is possible, Kim Jong Un’s visit to China was a way to ensure he will continue having the support of his nation’s most powerful ally during this period. Even if North Korea does not demand the complete withdrawal of US troops, the nation will expect to have all sanctions lifted moving forward. 

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