By Elton Gomes
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has for the first time issued a timeline for denuclearization, and has aimed to achieve the same by the end of United States President Donald Trump’s first term, officials from Seoul said.
Kim and South Korean President Moon Jae-in will meet in Pyongyang on September 18-20 for the third time. The two leaders are likely to discuss “practical measures” toward denuclearization, Moon’s national security adviser, Chung Eui-yong, said.
Kim told South Korean officials that his faith in Trump was “unchanged” and that he wanted complete denuclearization of the Korean peninsula. The North Korean leader also wanted an end to hostile relations with the United States before Trump’s first term ends in early 2021, Chung said, as per a Reuters report.
Although Kim said that he is looking forward to denuclearization, he had not offered any concrete steps in terms of giving up nuclear arms – something that US officials say they doubt he is willing to do.
Trump replies to Kim
Trump welcomed Kim’s remarks in his usual style – by taking to Twitter. “Kim Jong Un of North Korea proclaims ‘unwavering faith in President Trump.’ Thank you to Chairman Kim. We will get it done together!” Trump wrote on Twitter, Reuters reported.
Trump had hailed his June summit with Kim and confirmed the end of the North Korean nuclear threat, but provided very little evidence to back his claims. In previous talks, North Korea had said that it would consider giving up its nuclear program if the United States provided security guarantees by removing troops from South Korea.
US Intelligence believes North Korea is still making nuclear fuel
In July, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that North Korea has continued producing fuel for nuclear weapons despite Kim Jong Un’s support for denuclearization at the June summit with Trump. Pompeo told a Senate hearing and spoke before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Responding to a question by Massachusetts Senator Ed Markey, Pompeo said that North Korea “[continues] to produce fissile material”.
In June, US intelligence agencies believed that North Korea increased its production of fuel for nuclear weapons at several secret sites. Intelligence agencies claimed that the North was trying to hide these sites in order to seek concessions during nuclear talks with the US. NBC quoted five unidentified US officials, who said that North Korea had stepped up their production of enriched uranium for nuclear weapons.
Trump cancels Pompeo’s trip to Pyongyang
President Donald Trump announced in August that he had asked secretary Pompeo to cancel a planned trip to North Korea due to inadequate progress in denuclearization talks.
“I have asked Secretary of State Mike Pompeo not to go to North Korea, at this time, because I feel we are not making sufficient progress with respect to the denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula,” Trump posted on Twitter. “Additionally, because of our much tougher Trading stance with China, I do not believe they are helping with the process of denuclearisation as they once were (despite the UN Sanctions which are in place),” Trump said, as per an AFP report.
The historic summit in June
After hours of unprecedented talks between Trump and Kim, it seemed like both leaders had forged a new relationship with promises of disarmament. However, it remained extremely unclear whether nuclear disarmament was the final outcome of the historic summit that took place in June.
Talking to reporters at the signing ceremony, Trump said he expected denuclearization to start “very, very quickly.” Sitting beside Trump, Kim said both leaders “decided to leave the past behind” and that “the world will see a major change.”
However, very few details on concrete steps towards denuclearization emerged. The declaration failed to acknowledge how the US would verify denuclearization efforts, what type of security guarantees the US had committed to, or whether a “peace regime” would include a treaty to formally end the 1950-53 Korean War.
Elton Gomes is a staff writer at Qrius