On August 28th, the North Korea denuclearization deal appears to be at a standstill, with little progress on both sides, after statements from both the US and North Korea.
On the morning of August 28th, at a national security conference, Trump administration officials offered mixed messages on North Korea’s commitment to denuclearization and struggled to explain the president’s abrupt decision Friday to cancel a planned trip to Pyongyang this week by his top diplomat, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
At the same conference, Trump’s ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, suggested the North Korean regime may be having second thoughts about its promise to give up its nuclear arsenal. Despite that, Haley claimed that the US was making progress in its diplomatic pressure to force North Korea to denuclearize.
“Look, are they wishing or maybe changing their mind on denuclearization? It’s possible,” Haley said. “This is going to be a tough process, but this is still going in the right direction.”
In the afternoon on the same day, State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert also claimed that “there is progress being made” on denuclearization, even as she repeated President Donald Trump’s August 24th twitter complaints the North Korean regime appeared to be dragging its feet.
On August 24th, Trump announced Friday via Twitter that he was nixing Pompeo’s plans to travel to North Korea “because I feel we are not making sufficient progress with respect to the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.” The US President’s announcement came one day after US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced he plans on visiting North Korea, following the announcement of the appointment State Department negotiator, Stephen Biegun, to lead the talks.
Pompeo’s visit was aimed at pressuring North Korea further, after the Trump-Kim Jong-Un meeting on June 12th, during which they signed an agreement in which North Korea promised to work toward a “complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.” The US on its part, had to stop all military drills with South Korea, as well as eventually lift the sanctions on Kim’s country. Although the trip was cancelled Pompeo stated that he remained committed to the diplomatic push: “Despite the decision to delay my trip to Pyongyang, America stands ready to engage when it is clear Chairman Kim stands ready to deliver on the commitments that he made at the Singapore,” the Secretary of State said. “The United States, like the rest of the world, is looking forward to North Korea’s compliance” with denuclearization.
Sputnik cited the Washington Report, which on August 27th reported that Pompeo’s visit had allegedly been cancelled due to a letter sent by top North Korean officials who indicated their wariness about the success of future talks. The Washington Post cited two unnamed US administration officials, who claimed that Pompeo received a letter from Kim Yong Chol, vice chairman of the Korean Workers Party Central Committee, the ruling party that governs North Korea.
Sputnik also reported that the letter reportedly warned that denuclearization talks between the two countries were “again at stake and may fall apart” and that the process could not move forward, CNN reported August 28th, citing unnamed people familiar with the matter.
The North Korean government’s position regarding the cancellation was expressed in state newspaper Rodong Sinmun. It accused he US of “double-dealing” and “hatching a criminal plot” against Pyongyang, as cited by Sputnik. The newspaper also claimed that Japan and the US were engaged in a military exercise, rehearsing an attack on the North Korean capital. “Such acts prove that the US is hatching a criminal plot to unleash a war against the DPRK and commit a crime which deserves merciless divine punishment in case the US fails in the scenario of the DPRK’s unjust and brigandish denuclearization first,” the newspaper said.
The North Korean government have made little progress since the deal, as reported by USA Today. However, Sputnik cited Dr. Christine Hong, associate professor of critical race and ethnic studies at UC Santa Cruz and a member of the Korea Policy Institute, who claims that North Korea has actually taken serious steps. She noted that so far North Korea “has not only capped its nuclear testing for something like 200 days, it’s basically suspended that, and that’s huge. It’s dismantled nuclear testing sites. The other thing that it’s done is it released three Korean-Americans who were in prison in North Korea for committing acts against the state. And then recently, it released the remains, for repatriation, of 55 American servicemen who were killed during the ‘hot fighting’ period of the Korean War. What the United States has done is suspend one war exercise. And so, if you’re looking at the balance sheet, it’s actually not the case that North Korea’s not keeping up its end of the bargain; it’s really the United States.”
Hong further claimed that the US is taking steps back, regarding the North Korea issue. “What we are witnessing now is a return to US policy as usual. Far from being a spectator to an inter-Korean peace process, the Trump administration, as its skewed portrayal of North Korea’s request for a peaceful resolution to the Korean War as ‘belligerent’ reveals, is playing an obstructionist role, all during a time of historic inter-Korean rapprochement,” she said.
North Korea has requested some easing up of the sanctions, as it wishes for Washington to provide some concessions, however their requests have seemingly all been rejected.
Further, Trump seemed to lay the responsibility for the stall in denuclearization at China’s feet. Trump has seen Chinese President Xi Jinping as key to putting pressure on North Korea leader Kim Jong Un to cooperate with US policy goals, Sputnik reported on August 24th.
On August 25th, China responded to Trump’s accusations, condemning his comments. “The claims made by the US contradict the facts; they are irresponsible. We express deep concern in this regard and have already made a submission to the US side,” Chinese Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesperson Lu Kang said.
Earlier this month Sputnik reported that Trump similarly criticized Beijing, reportedly saying “China may be getting in our way” with regards to North Korea.
In response, on August 1st, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang had the following to say: “China’s position on the settlement of the situation on the Korean Peninsula is well known to everyone, from the very beginning we have made significant efforts to advance the settlement of the Korean Peninsula problem, and our efforts are recognized by the international community.”
Despite all of the mass media narratives that North Korea is not fulfilling any of its duties under the agreement, that may not exactly be the case, and it does appear that US may be the one failing to keep up its end of the deal.