The United States and North Korea will finally sit down for nuclear talks on October 5, according to an announcement by Pyongyang. Three months had passed without negotiations despite a handshake in June between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, at the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) separating the two Koreas, to resume working-level talks. North Korean First Vice Foreign Minister Choe Son Hui finally proposed on September 9 that the two sides meet at the end of the month, but, until now, Pyongyang had been “negotiating” through the media rather than discussing possible dates directly with its American counterparts for a meeting. It had praised Trump for suggesting he would try a “new method” with Pyongyang, as it had been demanding a “new calculation” from Washington for negotiations since the no-deal Hanoi summit in February. However, Trump’s remarks were made in the context of differentiating between the so-called Libya model, which North Korea sees as a formula for its demise: giving up nuclear weapons leads to the death of their leader.
More concerning is North Korean commentary framing the upcoming talks publicly as “preparations for a summit statement agreement.” This throws into question whether negotiators will be able to engage in any credible negotiations on the nuclear issue yet again. North Korean envoys were not given any room to discuss this core topic ahead of the past two summits, claiming it was for Kim to decide. This resulted in a vague leaders’ statement in Singapore and no agreement in Hanoi. Upping the ante, Pyongyang publicly warned on September 16 that it would discuss denuclearization only after “threats and obstacles” to their country are removed.
Negotiating with a country like North Korea involves many twists, turns, and delays. It also operates on an exponentially longer time scale while Trump has just over one year to achieve meaningful results before the next presidential elections, and South Korean President Moon Jae-in has about three years to establish peace on the Korean Peninsula. Trump may very well be the only American president who is willing to deal directly with Kim and provide massive benefits in unconventional ways, but Pyongyang so far continues to follow its old negotiating playbook instead of boldly rolling the dice to test Washington directly through meaningful negotiations.
Read the full article in The National Interest.
Read more from Duyeon Kim's June 2019 report about the possible path to North Korean denuclearization:
More from CNAS
CommentaryHotels and Free Wi-Fi Are Sitting Ducks for North Korean Cybercriminals
The dangerous combination of weak or nonexistent cybersecurity protocols, relaxed travelers and employees, and increased e-commerce and digital financial activity provide an i...
By Jason Bartlett
CommentaryGetting North Korea Back To The Table
North Korea sees the U.S. democratic electoral system as a strategic weakness it can take advantage of...
By Duyeon Kim
CommentaryNorth Korea’s “tactical-guided” ballistic missile test is no joke for Biden and South Korea
The global consequences and stakes are too high to allow the regime’s nuclear weapons program to advance even further....
By Duyeon Kim
CommentaryMun Chol Myong: The First-Ever North Korean Criminal Facing Extradition to the US
Southeast Asia will most likely continue to grapple with North Korean sanctions evasions and financial crime, but now the region has a new precedent to build upon....
By Jason Bartlett