Since the failure of the second Trump-Kim summit, denuclearization and peace negotiations on the Korean peninsula have come to a standstill. On one hand, the U.S. continues to maintain its position on strict sanctions and the denuclearization of the North. On the other, North Korea is calling for the end of economic sanctions as well as the removal of the American military presence on the peninsula. But despite the seeming stagnation, it is crucial to remain cognizant of the ramifications of these discussions.
This stall between the two countries has led to heightened tensions in the region. Recently, North Korea announced that it had tested a new weapon in Pyongyang, and Chairman Kim Jong-un has also called for the removal of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo from any further negotiations.
Both of these occurrences show increased agitation from the North in the denuclearization process. To stop this tension from escalating, the U.S. needs to take bold action by first removing economic sanctions on the North immediately. From there, the two nations can work towards a complete denuclearization of the whole peninsula, and the peace process between the two Koreas can finally begin.
Considering the United States’ scarred military history and its aggressive presence on the Korean peninsula currently, a one-sided solution is nearly impossible. The U.S. stations around 28,000 troops in the South, and two years ago, had at least two nuclear submarines in the area. This powerful military presence presents an obvious danger to the Kim regime and to the North. The history of U.S. military action against countries like Iran, Afghanistan and Yemen shows there is a clear precedent for the use of armed forces to resolve situations. It is, at least in part, the reason why the North’s nuclear program exists in the first place.
The U.S.’ involvement in trying to overthrow the Maduro government in Venezuela is another signal of American neo-imperialistic intentions, and gives the North Korean leader yet another reason to tighten his grip on nuclear weapons. The past and the present show why a one-sided denuclearization agreement should be left behind.
As if that wasn’t enough justification, there’s also the issue of the American representatives who have led the talks. John Bolton, President Donald Trump’s national security advisor, has made troubling statements regarding the situation in North Korea, even advocating for a pre-emptive strike to stop the country’s nuclear weapons program — a strategy that could lead to 300,000 South Korean deaths. With Bolton as one of the main advisors to the president on this issue, it is no wonder the North is hesitant to denuclearize.
The U.S. must understand that the North has no reason to give up its nuclear weapons without a sign of good faith from the other side first. The clearest and best way to do this is to remove the economic sanctions that are impacting the largest industries in the country. Doing this would break the standstill in negotiations as well as reaffirm President Trump’s promise to help bolster the North’s economy in the future.
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A version of this article appeared in the Monday, April 22, 2019, print edition. Email Jun Sung at [email protected]