The Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo’s visit to Pyongyang one week ago, demonstrated no progress on talks about denuclearization. An undisclosed source inside the White House mentioned they felt his visit went as badly as it could have gone. It seems like North Korea is not serious about their agreement as they promised to meet with Pompeo. The lack of that meeting sends a loud and clear message to the White House.
Adam Mount, director of the Defense Posture Project where he covers US nuclear strategy, deterrence, and North Korea, says it’s clear this approach is a dead end. The White House took a major step towards total disarmament. North Korea, however, seems not only unwilling but sees little reason to take steps in that direction.
Pompeo’s goal was to mitigate the possible frustration due to the fact North Korea has yet to declare the fate of its nuclear weapons program publicly.
Pompeo himself said it is a challenge that will last decades. It is difficult to make North Korean understand the possession of nuclear weapons harms them more than it gives security.
Even with the declaration that progress was being made on both sides, North Korea called America’s attitude regrettable. They claimed it differed from the spirit of both leaders seen in Singapore on June 12.
The comments from North Korea show the gulf between the demands made by the United States and other nations and what Korea is willing actually to do. Therefore, it is important there is an agreement. It’s also important to keep the economic pressure through the sanctions regime.
Leverage is Not in Trump’s Court Even Before Pompeo’s Visit to North Korea
A former government official of South Korea said President Trump lost the leverage he had the moment he agreed to meet with Kim without any preconditions. The theatrics of snubbing Pompeo during his visit is a recall to the US-DPRK talks back in the 90s.
The White House still maintains that if North Korea fails to complete its end of the bargain, the sanctions will continue. However, Chinese government sanctions previously enacted have loosened over time.
One disappointing summit, however, doesn’t mean the end of diplomacy. North Korea demonstrated their want to keep with the talks in a direct appeal to Trump criticizing his top diplomat.
Now, the question for the administration is whether or not it shifts to a more feasible approach. Either that or continue to demand complete disarmament from North Korea with no economic concessions. There are no indications that North Korea wants to return to a world of rising military action on either side.
The concern for the meantime is Trump’s reaction. He has to decide how much he could gain domestically with returning to threats or does he want to distract from political or legal problems domestically. All of these options have potentially volatile results.