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Critics Raise Concerns over ‘Small Deal’ between the U.S. and N. Korea
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Critics Raise Concerns over ‘Small Deal’ between the U.S. and N. Korea
  • By Park Jung-hwan
  • February 28, 2019, 13:54
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U.S. President Donald Trump (right) and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un pose for a photo at the first U.S.-N. Korea Summit held in Singapore in June last year.

U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un meet to talk about the denuclearization of North Korea in Hanoi, Vietnam, from Feb. 27 to 28. To this end, Kim arrived in Vietnam after a 66-hour long train journey which would only take six hours by air. Will this become a prelude of another fake peace show?

During a recent telephone call with President Trump, South Korean President Moon Jae-in said that he would take the responsibility for inter-Korean economic cooperation, without any comment on the dismantlement of Pyongyang's nuclear arms programs. Unlike Moon, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe called for a ‘final, fully verified denuclearization (FFVD).’

The South Korean government has tried to solve the denuclearization issue through the South-North talks, including the announcement of Panmunjeom Declaration containing the ‘complete denuclearization’ in April last year, which South Korean people welcomed warmly. However, it is still uncertain whether North Korea will demolish its nuclear programs, though nearly a year has already passed. Moreover, President Moon has been appealing to the international community for easing sanctions on Pyongyang, while the international community has been seeking to force the communist country to abandon its nuclear programs by imposing economic sanctions.

Given the current situation, not only the agenda has been not selected yet, but also there is no definite will or concept yet for the denuclearization for the second U.S.-North Korea summit. It is still unclear whether North Korea will close down its missile engine testing facility in Dongchang-ri and nuclear facilities in Yongbyon, what corresponding measures the United States will take for North Korea in return for scrapping the inter-continental ballistic missiles that could hit the U.S. mainland, whether the United States will allow the inter-Korean industrial complex in Kaesong or Mount Kumgang tours as Moon has intended, and whether the United States open a liaison office in Pyongyang and agree to declare the end of war.

The problem is that Trump, who is in the later part of his term, can use the relations with North Korea for his own political interests and achievements including an abolition of North Korea’s ICBM, putting aside the concerns of South Korean people who are directly involved in the nuclear issue. This is why critics continuously express concerns over ‘small deal’ that Trump, who is aiming for re-election two years later, will step back from the North Korea’s FFVD and exchange economic support for a ‘freeze of the existing nuclear and missile facilities.’

In contrast, Kim is well aware of the fact that the nuclear negotiation is ‘a race against time’ and this is why he believes that he has it over Trump who has a term in office. He will not back down easily. North Korea will play into its salami-slicing tactics again at the upcoming negotiation to politicize the issue stage by stage as much as possible and seek to ease sanctions and get economic returns from the international community including the United States.

The complete denuclearization of North Korea is the last bastion of the permanent peace on the Korean peninsula. So, the U.S.-North Korea summit in Hanoi will be a watershed that determines the destiny of the Korean peninsula. If the United States fails to come up with a detailed roadmap to eliminate nuclear warheads and substances at the upcoming meeting, the initiative of the complete denuclearization of North Korea can be killed off.

Against North Korea sticking to the unification under communism, South Korea is only relying on the United States to solve the problems posed by North Korea's nuclear weapons which are the biggest threat to South Korea. What would Seoul do if Washington agrees to withdraw the U.S. Armed Forces from the peninsula for the Pyongyang’s promise to abandon nuclear programs? As a result, is there really no chance that South Korea would become another South Vietnam between 1973 and 1975? These uncertainties are just the reason why we need to think more seriously about the issue of securing our security self-determination.