President Moon: North Korea seeks 'complete denuclearization'

From our "I'll believe it when I see it" file.

South Korean president Moon Jae-in says North Korean leader Kim Jong-un is seeking "complete denuclearization" of the Korean peninsula without conditions.  Meanwhile, the U.S. vowed to keep "maximum pressure" on North Korea.


Moon said big-picture agreements about denuclearization, establishing a peace regime and normalisation of relations between the two Koreas and the United States should not be difficult to reach through summits between the North and South, and between the North and the United States.

"I don't think denuclearization has different meanings for South and North Korea.  The North is expressing a will for a complete denuclearization," Moon said during a lunch with chief executives of Korean media companies.

"They have not attached any conditions that the U.S. cannot accept, such as the withdrawal of American troops from South Korea.  All they are talking about is the end of hostile policies against North Korea, followed by a guarantee of security."

North Korea has defended its nuclear and missile programmes, which it pursues in defiance of U.N. Security Council resolutions, as a necessary deterrent against perceived U.S. hostility.  The United States stations 28,500 troops in South Korea, a legacy of the 1950-53 Korean War.

South Korean officials have said a deal to finally end the Korean war is in the works, so anything is possible.  But Kim dismantling his nuclear infrastructure and allowing regular inspections to make sure he isn't cheating?  They don't call North Korea the "Hermit Kingdom" for nothing.  The notion that Kim would go back on a decade's worth of promises to never give up his nuclear program is fantastical.  So is the idea that after 63 years, a peace treaty between the North and South, as well as the U.S., can be reached. 

It sounds as though Kim is setting everyone up to pull a "Lucy" and snatch the football away right before Charlie Brown kicks it.  Kim is raising expectations sky-high.  It would be out of character for him to meet those expectations.

For Trump's part, he has no illusions about the summit.


President Trump said at the joint news conference that if he did not think the meeting would be successful he would not go, and if the meeting went ahead but was not productive, he would walk out.

"Our campaign of maximum pressure will continue until North Korea denuclearises," he added.

If Kim was banking on the notion that Trump would be so desperate for a triumph to distract from his legal troubles that he would agree to something less than complete denuclearization, he is going to be mistaken.

This is a new game for Kim.  Any sign of weakness would be more than a political setback for him.  It could create opposition that would threaten his rule.  That's why it's not likely that any breakthroughs between the U.S. and North Korea will happen at the summit.