What message Pyongyang is sending?

Md. Sharif Hasan
Published : 16:41, May 18, 2019 | Updated : 16:47, May 18, 2019

Md. Sharif HasanOnce again Kim Jong-un has put the US and its neighbours on high alert. Pyongyang fired two-short range missiles less than a week after its leader Kim Jong-un oversaw the test-firing of multiple rockets and a missile. Critics say Kim is using his military complex to send a political message just a week after he met President Vladimir Putin in Russia. That action's raised already mounting tensions even further, after Trump and Kim's failure to reach an agreement at their summit in Hanoi last February.
This is probably a signal to the United States to return to the table and negotiate. It’s North Korea’s unique experience that as a negotiator Donald Trump would sort of just get up and walk out of the room. The North Koreans aren’t accustomed to that kind of behaviour. They usually get deference after they pull some high jinks or stunts .When Trump went through his gestures, that kind sent a message. And, the North Koreans are sort of pushing back the way they normally do.
They’re genuinely open to something with the Americans. And, this is a way to needle the Americans a little bit to get them to come back and renegotiate. Kim Jong-un wants a deal. He is different from his father, Kim Jong-il. Kim Jong-il did run the economy in the country into the ground and had very mixed feelings at best dealing with the outside world. Unlike his father, Kim seems genuinely more interested. He went to Singapore which is unexpected. Broadly speaking, this Kim has sent two signals to the West that he wants some kind of deal. He’s talked with the Chinese, Russians, Americans and South Koreans and so on. There’s some space now.
At this juncture, one needs to point out that the North Koreans haven't gone to zero. They have not completely denuclearized. They’ve spent 50 years developing these weapons. Presumably, they have several dozens of warheads now. They’re not going to give them all up but some.
North Korean military conducts a `strike drill` for multiple launchers and tactical guided weapon into the East Sea during a military drill in North Korea, in this May 4, 2019 photo supplied by the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA). KCNA via REUTERS/File PhotoThe real question here is: will the Americans come forward with a deal that the North Koreans find acceptable enough for them to be giving up 10 or 20 or 30 warheads or something like that? And, this is where Trump administration really drops the ball. The Trump administration just hasn’t come up with a package the North Koreans find very attractive. Yet they demand complete denuclearization up front in exchange for vague security guarantees and economic aid packages. Security Analysts have commented that’s just not enough for complete denuclearization.
The Trump administration’s approach to this has been basically our way or the highway. Let’s see what the Trump people and before them called CVID (complete verifiable irreversible disarmament) which is to say that North Koreans will give up everything. Not just the nuclear weapons and warheads but the physical facilities, the human capital, the whole bit, may be the uranium mines. It’s just asking for everything. Sure, the North Koreans are pretty smart. They’re not going to give something for nothing. And, the more you ask the more they’re going to demand in return.
The Trump administration needs to be imaginative here. The North Koreans are going to want a lot obviously. They want sanctions relief, huge aid packages. They’d like to see a restructuring of the force posture of the US and South Korea, of the South Korean military. They want peace treaty. But, the Trump administration only assures sanctions relief and that’s just not enough for the regime security value of nuclear weapons.
The bottom line? There’ll be a third summit but it will also be small beer in the way that the last two were. It’ll return some kind of vague joint statement unless the Americans come forward with something a lot more substantial in exchange for fully verifiable disarmament. The Americans haven’t really brought their full game in these talks in the last year.
Md. Sharif Hasan teaches International Relations at University of Rajshahi.

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