Just the Facts
Five Facts on the North Korea Talks
By No Labels
May 17, 2018 | Blog
The historic meeting between President Trump and Kim Jong-un of North Korea hit a snag this week when North Korea threatened to pull out of the summit, complaining that the U.S. wants unilateral nuclear disarmament.
The meeting, which would take place in Singapore, would be the first of its kind. No sitting U.S. president has ever met with a leader of North Korea. As the U.S. works to get the process back on track, here’s what you need to know.
There May Be a Misunderstanding About Diplomatic Language
When North Korea and South Korea signed a joint statement after a historic meeting last month, they agreed to pursue “complete denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.” But that may mean different things in the U.S. and North Korea. “For Pyongyang it is a fluid term that means a long-term process of disarmament, involving all major powers,” The Guardian reported, adding that, “The Trump administration thought it meant – or wanted it to mean – that Kim was ready to give up the arsenal he had declared complete and operational in January.”
North Korea is Unhappy With U.S. Rhetoric
Earlier this week, a North Korean vice foreign minister said in a statement, “We are no longer interested in a negotiation that will be all about driving us into a corner and making a one-sided demand for us to give up our nukes.” He added: “This would force us to reconsider whether we would accept the North Korea-US summit meeting.”
North Korea Has a History With the U.S. National Security Advisor
U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton angered North Korea with his insistence that the country dismantle its nuclear arsenal and a comment that it follow the “Libya model” (Libya disarmed years ago but the regime was ultimately overthrown anyway). North Korea reportedly had problems with Bolton in the past, when he urged President George W. Bush to pull out of a nuclear deal. The regime has reportedly called him “human scum” and a “bloodsucker.” This week, a North Korean official said, “We do not hide our feeling of repugnance towards him.”
South Korea and the U.S. Continue Military Exercises
North Korea canceled talks with South Korea this week, citing “provocative military disturbances.” What is happening is the regular “Max Thunder” air force drills in which the U.S. and South Korea practice jointly, using about 100 aircraft. Though the exercises are defensive in nature, North Korea has long objected. As The Guardian reports,”for North Korea, the presence of bombers in joint U.S.-South Korea drills triggers painful memories of the 1950-53 Korean War.” More than 635,000 tons of explosives were dropped in Korea during the conflict.
North Korea Has Made Some Concessions
The thawing of relations between the United States and North Korea has extended beyond rhetoric. In recent months, North Korea has suspended missile and nuclear tests, shut down a nuclear testing site and released three U.S. citizens it was holding as prisoners. On Wednesday, the White House press secretary said the change in North Korea’s tone was expected: “The President is very used to and ready for tough negotiations, and if they want to meet, we’ll be ready, and if they don’t, that’s okay, too.”