World View: Likely Outcome of Trump-Kim North Korea Summit: Mutual Recriminations and Accusations

AFP/Getty Images

This morning’s key headlines from

  • North Korea schedules dismantling of nuclear test site as TV ceremony
  • North Korea offers series of theatrical noncommittal gestures
  • The most likely Kim-Trump meeting outcome: Mutual accusations and recriminations

North Korea schedules dismantling of nuclear test site as TV ceremony

Ronald Reagan (L) and Mikhail Gorbachev (R) leave 1986 summit meeting after it collapses in mutual recriminations and accusations of bad faith and lying (ADST)
Ronald Reagan (L) and Mikhail Gorbachev (R) leave 1986 summit meeting after it collapses in mutual recriminations and accusations of bad faith and lying (ADST)

North Korea has announced that its Punggye-ri nuclear test site, located in Mount Mantap, will be dismantled during the period of May 23-25 and that international journalists will be able to cover the dismantling “on the spot” and transmit their reports from a press center at the site.

This announcement comes just two days after scientists reported that an examination of satellite images shows that Mount Mantap itself has collapsed considerably more than has previously been estimated. Using these images, scientists found that Mount Mantap moved by around 11.5 feet (3.5 meters) and shrank by 1.6 feet (0.5 m). It cannot be determined from the satellite images whether some tunnels have collapsed, or whether the entire mountain has collapsed.

Nonetheless, what is apparent from numerous reports starting with North Korea’s last nuclear test, on September 3 of last year, is that Chinese scientists and geologists are telling North Korea not to use that test site again, because another test could risk a huge nuclear disaster that would release huge amounts of radiation and nuclear debris that would spread over large parts of northeastern China, as well as North Korea.

When North Korea made the initial dismantling announcement, they said that international journalists and nuclear experts would be permitted to watch the dismantling. The latest announcement omits mention of nuclear experts and says that even the number of journalists will be limited, suggesting that there is another layer of North Korean subterfuge in process.

The bottom line is that the dismantling of the test site on May 23-25 is a completely empty gesture since the site cannot be used again anyway. KCNA Watch and BBC and Live Science and Washington Post

Related Articles:

North Korea offers series of theatrical noncommittal gestures

Chinese media have been talking about a “dual track” process to achieve denuclearization. This means that the North Koreans make a concession and the US makes a concession, and so forth.

China and North Korea are already pressuring the U.S. to ease the strict sanctions that have been imposed on North Korea, based on the supposed concessions already made. They are aware that once the sanctions have been lifted, it will be almost impossible to get international agreement to re-impose them, even if North Korea reverses any concessions that it has made. The near impossibility of re-imposing sanctions has been illustrated in the last week by the international criticism of the Trump administrations announced re-imposition of sanctions on Iran.

So the following points are worth noting with regard to the steps that have already been taken in this “dual track” process to achieve denuclearization:

  • North Korean media has quoted Kim Jong-un as saying that no further tests were needed since testing had already been successfully completed.
  • As described, the dismantling of the nuclear test site is meaningless, since it could not be used again anyway. As I understand it, the North could bore tunnels into another mountain, and quickly create a new test site.
  • With big fanfare, Kim Jong-un released three American hostages this week. They should never have been abducted in the first place, and Kim can easily abduct three more Americans if he does not get his way.
  • Kim has not agreed to release similarly abducted Japanese and South Korean hostages and prisoners of war.
  • Kim Jong-un has been conducting a charm offensive since the Seoul Olympic Games began in January, with singing and dancing girls, capped off by a magical meeting between Kim and South Korea’s president Moon Jae-in.
  • The meeting between Kim and Moon produced a “Panmunjom Declaration” that promised peace in our time, but provided no concessions.
  • The Panmunjom Declaration said, “South and North Korea confirmed the common goal of realizing, through complete denuclearization, a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula.” However, the word “denuclearization” has been used for decades by the North Koreans as including the withdrawal of American troops from South Korea and the dissolution of the United States-South Korea alliance.
  • The Panmunjom Declaration says nothing about ending development of ballistic missiles.
  • North Korea promised to stop nuclear weapons and ballistic missile tests until the meeting Kim Jong-un and Donald Trump, but development is believed to have continued without testing.
  • A series of North Korean leaders – Kim Il-sung (the grandfather), Kim Jong-il (the father), and Kim Jong-un (the child) – have starved, tortured, and brutalized the North Korean people for decades, saying that it was all worth it because one day North Korea would be nuclear power and would be a great nation, a peer to the United States. North Korea will never be a great nation under Kim Jong-un, but it is close to being a nuclear power, and there is no possibility that they will simply throw away decades of starvation and torture and dismantle their nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles without a war. If Kim seriously recommended denuclearization, then in my opinion one of his own generals would shoot him dead.

Many of these things are being described by the mainstream media as concessions by the North Koreans, sometimes with the implication that Donald Trump should make some concessions in return at the meeting with Kim. However, Kim and the North Koreans have displayed a great deal of theatric showmanship, but have not made a single actual concession. Panmunjom Declaration and Japan Forward

The most likely Kim-Trump meeting outcome: Mutual accusations and recriminations

On October 11, 1986, Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev held a summit meeting in Reykjavik, Iceland. The agenda was mutual reductions in missile arsenals, and expectations were very high. But then Gorbachev demanded limitations on Reagan’s pet project, the mythical Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI), which supposedly would use space technology to provide a “shield” from nuclear attacks. Reagan refused, and the meeting ended in mutual accusations and recriminations, each accusing the other of lying and bad faith. Talks did not resume again for more than a year.

It has been announced that Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un will have a summit meeting on June 12 in Singapore. Expectations for this meeting are enormously high. The people of South Korea, particularly, are praying that this will be end of their long 70-year nightmare that began with the Korean War, and that they will be reunited with the families again.

However, Kim is going to demand that some sanctions be lifted immediately, and Trump is going to demand substantial, verifiable steps to dismantle North Korea’s nuclear program. And while the main agenda item is “denuclearization,” the two sides have completely different meanings for that term.

In my opinion, the most likely outcome of the June 12 meeting is a repeat of the outcome of the Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev, in that the meeting will end (or not be held) amidst a flurry of mutual accusations and recriminations.

After that, there are many possible scenarios. It is possible that North Korea will continue nuclear weapons development, with or without testing, and it is possible that the Trump administration will go back to continuing military options.

As I have been writing for many months now, there are hard bottom-line positions on both sides, and they have not changed. Kim is committed to producing an arsenal of nuclear-tippedd ballistic missiles aimed at the United States and selling that technology to Iran and other rogue nations. Trump is committed to preventing that from happening. and Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training and 38 North

Related Articles:

KEYS: Generational Dynamics, South Korea, Moon Jae-in, North Korea, Kim Jong-un, Mount Mantap, Punggye-ri nuclear test site, Panmumjom Declaration, Kim Il-sung, Kim Jong-il, Ronald Reagan, Mikhail Gorbachev, Reykjavik Iceland, Strategic Defense Initiative, SDI
Permanent web link to this article
Receive daily World View columns by e-mail


Please let us know if you're having issues with commenting.