Denuclearization clock ticks again

Jul 26, 2018, 09:28 am

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By AsiaToday Washington correspondent Ha Man-joo & reporter Kim Ye-jin

U.S. President Donald Trump has welcomed reports that North Korea has begun dismantling its Sohae Satellite Launching Station. Stalled denuclearization talks between Washington and Pyongyang is now back on track. It is noteworthy whether this will be a breakthrough in the U.S.-North Korea negotiations. 

While many analysts expect that North Korea will demand declaring an end to the Korean War from the U.S. as a corresponding measure to the dismantlement, there is much attention towards whether the U.S. will demand its involvement in the verification process. The United States is aware of the criticism that North's denuclearization require verification and inspections, and it is possible that the two sides will play a tug-of-war on a concrete verification process. 

Speaking at a national convention of the Veterans of Foreign Wars in Kansas City, Missouri on Tuesday, Trump said that Washington appreciates that Pyongyang has begun the process of dismantling the site. He stressed that he has a "good feeling" about Kim. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the North's dismantlement was "entirely consistent with commitments North Korean leader Kim Jong-un made to Trump during their summit in Singapore." U.S. Ambassador to Seoul Harry B. Harris also said satellite images of dismantlement at Sohae are a "good omen" for denuclearization, during his meeting with South Korean President Moon Jae-in on Wednesday. Moon said if U.S. remains are returned as promised it would have a positive impact on U.S.-North Korea dialogue. 

The North Korea-focused 38 North website released satellite imagery taken recently that seem to show dismantlement underway at Sohae. Following Trump's welcome remarks, there were also reports confirming that North Korea has dismantled its intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) assembly structure near Pyongyang, apart from the Sohae site. Recent civilian satellite indicates a structure used to assemble intercontinental ballistic missiles had been disassembled, Voice of America reported Wednesday. 

Considering the situation, it seems that North Korea is strongly urging the U.S. to end the Korean War. In fact, North Korea's propaganda website Meari said in a post entitled, "The U.S. attitude to avoid declaring the end of the war may spoil things," that there are increasing criticism over the U.S. stance on declaration of ending the war. "The voices of the international society point out that the United States is excessively greedy for not accepting the North's demand to declare an end to the war, that things could be spoiled because of it, and that it is shameless just demanding the North's denuclearization while postponing what have been already agreed at the summits in Panmunjom and Singapore. They are right," Meari said. 

Some tangible results for the denuclearization negotiations may be achieved depending on the U.S.' response to North Korea's first step for denuclearization. 

However, the denuclearization negotiations may be stalled again depending on how Pyongyang will accept Washington's demand for verification of denuclearization. "We've been pressing for there to be inspectors on the ground when that engine test facility is dismantled, consistent with Chairman Kim's commitment," Pompeo said. "Verification is obviously something that is paramount," U.S. State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert said. 

U.S. media outlets are creating an atmosphere that verification for denuclearization is essential. The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) quoted Vipin Narangm, a nuclear expert and associate professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, saying, "It isn't clear that Pyongyang's dismantling of the engine test stand is irreversible." The WSJ said that North Korea might not even need the Sohae facility to produce the ICBMs and the engines required for long-range missiles, because they may have already perfected them. 

"Dismantling activities at Sohae could be an encouraging sign for the Trump administration, which has so far had little to show for its efforts to denuclearize North Korea," the New York Times reported. "But many analysts say North Korea will not have started denuclearizing until it begins dismantling its nuclear weapons," it said.

#Denuclearization #Sohae #dismantle #North Korea #U.S. 
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