The Yomiuri ShimbunThe North Korean leader’s recent visit to Beijing was apparently intended to show off the country’s close relationship with China and aimed at laying the groundwork, ahead of a second U.S.-North Korea summit, for proceeding with denuclearization talks that are to its advantage.
Kim Jong Un, chairman of the Workers’ Party of Korea, has visited China for the first time in half a year and conferred with Chinese President Xi Jinping. Kim visited China repeatedly before and after his first summit with U.S. President Donald Trump last June.
Kim reportedly told Xi that his country would “maintain the stance of working toward denuclearization” and emphasized that he would “strive to bring about results that could be welcomed by the international community” in an expected second summit with Trump. As for negotiations with Washington, Kim reportedly expressed concern, explaining that “difficult challenges” have emerged.
Kim is most certainly dissatisfied with the stagnated negotiations because he could not be assured of rewards such as the United States easing or lifting sanctions against his country.
In his New Year address, Kim expressed a stance of not producing, testing, using or proliferating nuclear weapons. Saying that “if the United States persists with sanctions and pressure against our republic, we may be compelled to find a new way,” Kim indicated the possibility of his country returning to a hard-line policy stance.
The problem is that he made no reference to the abolition of nuclear arms and materials already possessed by his country.
U.S. should work with Japan
The U.N. Security Council has called for the North to relinquish its nuclear weapons by imposing sanctions on it for having conducted nuclear tests and test-launched ballistic missiles. It does not make sense for Pyongyang to demand the lifting of sanctions while leaving its existing nuclear arsenal and ballistic missiles intact.
It can be said that the North is forced to change its strategy of being assured of corresponding measures from the United States in exchange for offering steps toward denuclearization bit by bit, such as dismantling a nuclear test site. Unless the North renounces its nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles, threats to the region cannot be wiped out.
Xi reportedly stressed China’s stance of serving as a backer of the North and supporting dialogue between Pyongyang and Washington. Amid a situation in which U.S.-China confrontation over trade and other issues has become serious, Xi was most likely giving Washington a glimpse of its influence over Pyongyang.
A worrying matter is that Trump is impatient to hold a summit with Kim.
Talks at the senior official level between the United States and North Korea on denuclearization have not made headway since U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visited Pyongyang last October. Even if a summit is held under such circumstances, it is doubtful whether they can pave the way for denuclearization.
Washington should stick to the principle of calling for complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization and maintain sanctions until results are obtained. It is imperative to compile a road map showing the process from reporting nuclear weapons and materials and their related facilities to their abolition, and to then press the North to take concrete steps.
The United States is called on to make meticulous preparations by cooperating closely with Japan and other relevant countries in regard to its strategy on North Korea.