Just the Facts

Five Facts on the U.S. Effort to Denuclearize North Korea

By No Labels
October 2, 2018 | Blog

It has been almost four months since President Trump sat down with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to discuss efforts to denuclearize the peninsula and to end the 65 year-old conflict between the two countries. A lot has happened since, so here are five things you need to know on the current status of talks between the two countries:

On June 12th, President Trump and North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un met in Singapore for a historic summit between the two nations

The summit was the first meeting between a North Korean leader and a sitting United States president.  Following the summit, the two leaders released a joint statement outlining several major goals and commitments for the two countries moving forward. While the statement was light on specifics, it included commitments such as the eventual denuclearization of North Korea, the establishment of diplomatic relations between North Korea and the U.S., and a stop to U.S. war games with South Korea.

In the months following the summit, diplomatic relations between the U.S. and North Korea remained rocky

Three weeks after the Singapore Summit, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo returned to Pyongyang to meet with North Korean General Kim Yong Chol to continue consultations and implement the forward progress made at the summit.  The talks were initially seen as a sign of progress with Pompeo describing them as “productive” and “good-faith negotiations.”  However, shortly thereafter, the North Koreans released their own statement, calling Pompeo’s proposals for denuclearization “unilateral and robber-like” and stating they “go against the spirit of the North [Korean]-U.S. summit meeting.”  Approximately six weeks later, Trump canceled Pompeo’s planned follow-up visit to North Korea tweeting “I feel we are not making sufficient progress with respect to the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.”

On September 18th, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in met in Pyongyang to further discuss North Korean denuclearization

The summit resulted in the two leaders signing the Pyongyang Joint Declaration, one of the most concrete and comprehensive steps towards the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula thus far.  In addition to committing to the “cessation of military hostilities” between North and South Korea, the agreement also committed North Korea to dismantling the Dongchang-ri missile engine test site and launch platform under the observation of international experts.  In addition, the North also agreed to take further steps to dismantle its nuclear program, such as dismantling its nuclear facilities in Yongbyon, if the United States agreed to take “corresponding measures in accordance with the spirit of the June 12 US-DPRK Joint Statement.”

On September 26th Secretary Pompeo met with North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho to discuss a second summit between President Trump and Kim Jong Un

The meeting occurred in New York while both men were in town for the United Nations General Assembly.  The United States portrayed an air of optimism following the meeting, as Pompeo reported that he had a “very positive meeting with Ri to discuss [an] upcoming summit and next steps toward denuclearization of North Korea.” This was followed by similarly encouraging statements from State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert, who reported that Pompeo will once again return to Pyongyang where he will discuss securing the “final, fully verified denuclearization” of North Korea and “prepare for a second summit between President Trump and Chairman Kim.” 

On September 29th Foreign Minister Ri delivered a strongly worded speech declaring that North Korea will not denuclearize without U.S. concessions

Thus far the United States has refused to lift sanctions or make major concessions, such as a formal end to the Korean War, until North Korea has denuclearized.  In a recent statement, President Trump made his position quite clear, stating, “The sanctions will stay in place until denuclearization occurs.” However, North Korea has made it similarly evident that they will not denuclearize until the U.S. makes concrete steps to meet North Korean demands.  In a speech delivered at the United Nations, Foreign Minister Ri stated, “Without any trust in the United States, there will be no confidence in our national security, and under such circumstances there is no way we will unilaterally disarm ourselves first.” While it is not clear what strategy the U.S. will adopt going forward, the debate over whether to provide concessions before North Korea is fully denuclearized will certainly be a subject of significant debate.

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