Can Trump-Kim summit focus on ‘the denuclearization of the DPRK?
The prospect of a Trump-Kim summit has given rise to widespread concerns, including uncertainty of preparations which should be necessary to lead the negotiation on very complicated matters to a successful result. There seem to be problems on both sides. Mr. Trump is reported to make decisions by himself, without listening to and taking into account the advises of wise people around him.
For the part of Mr. Kim, we know too little about him, but at least Mr. Kim does not seem to be under influence of any person in the People’s Republic. If so, everything must be entirely different.
I wonder, however, if there is more chance for success, for the reasons that the preparations are not done well by the professional bureaucrats, even though this thinking may sound paradoxical.
One question is; Are we trying to achieve ‘denuclearization of the DPRK’ or ‘of the Korean Peninsula’?
The denuclearization of the DPRK may seem to be a part of the denuclearization of the Peninsula, but in the actual negotiation there is a clear difference.
The denuclearization of the South was already achieved when the US took out the nuclear weapons in 1991. And the nuclear free status of South Korea has been confirmed on a few occasions subsequently.
But neither the US forces nor the Korean Government has never agreed to submit the US facilities for verification, perhaps by North Koreans! In 1992 this became a real problem after the Declaration of the Denuclearization of the Peninsula was made. The DPRK insisted that the US facilities should be opened for inspection, which was promptly rejected by the ROC. Probably the Korean government even did not want to discuss such North’s demand with the Americans.
Today if the denuclearization of the Peninsula becomes the objective of the negotiation, the US forces must face the same demand by the DPRK.
Another difficulty lies in the ‘nuclear umbrella’. The ROK is considered to be under that. There is a certain ambiguous aspect for the South Koreans, namely the wording of the US-ROK defense treaty is not clear enough, and the Koreans want to improve the treaty or to get a separate but clear commitment from the US to defend by the nuclear weapons.
But for the moment let us put aside this delicate problem and simply assume the ROK is under the US nuclear umbrella.
Now the question we must ask is ; The denuclearization of the Peninsula includes the commitment to defend by nuclear weapons or not?
As far as the South is concerned, the answer is, as we have tentatively assumed, ‘yes’. But what about the North? If the denuclearization is completed, it will become vulnerable and it may ask China to defend the North by the Chinese nuclear weapons. The alliance treaty between the DPRK and China is still valid. Some people say China may not honor the obligation, but it is not the position of the Chinese Government.
All these are so unlikely, under the present circumstances, but in the future the North may request China to do so, if it is absolutely necessary.
If China gives commitment to defend the North by nuclear weapons,
just like the US gives to the South, then we must face another question, the nuclear policy of China; When, how, and under what circumstances the Chinese authority will dare use the nuclear weapons? Unfortunately we know much less about it than about the US nuclear policy. Even we will never be able to make sensible judgement whether the North is or not under the Chinese umbrella!
These are very troublesome questions we may face if we try to achieve ‘denuclearization of the Peninsula’.
The most important thing is ‘the denuclearization of the North’, and how to focus our attention on that point. ‘Denuclearization of the Peninsula’ may appear to be fair to the South and to the North, but it is more likely to widen our attentions to many related questions and as a result of that we may be dragged into unnecessary confusions.
In the coming summit between Mr. Trump and Mr. Kim, I hope their attentions will be focused on the ‘denuclearization of the North’ for the US and for the DPRK on ‘recognition of DPRK by the US’. The latter may be expressed in other formulas such as ‘peace treaty between the two countries’, ‘non-aggression treaty’ ,‘commitment that the US does not attack the North’, etc..
I am not saying that we can forget the related questions, but only saying that these related questions should be treated as conditions to achieve the goals for the two countries.
In the US-DPRK summit, the two leaders should focus their attention on the deal between the respective goal for the negotiations, that is to say, between the ‘denuclearization of the DPRK’ and ‘recognition by the US of the DPRK’.
At the summit, they cannot afford to deal all the related secondary questions. They can delegate their respective officials to finalize such related questions.
The joint communique of September 19, 2005 is one of the best examples of ‘denuclearization of the Peninsula’. It was made by the officials of six countries. The Trump-Kim summit should not repeat the same.