EDITORIAL: U.S. must continue talks with N. Korea for denuclearisation

TOKYO (The Japan News/ANN) - It was a historic summit meeting for the leaders of the United States and North Korea to build their personal relationship of trust. Tensions between the two countries have eased but no progress has been made in denuclearization. It can be said that the summit has drawn mixed reactions of praise and criticism.

 Making a nation, which has come to possess nuclear weapons, abandon them is an extremely difficult goal to achieve. To attain the goal, the United States should continue negotiations with the North persistently.

No concrete steps

 U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, chairman of the Workers’ Party of Korea, have held the historic first summit between the two countries in Singapore. The two signed a joint statement, declaring to the world a new phase in the bilateral relationship.
 As for the nuclear issue, the biggest focal point, the statement did not go beyond confirming Kim’s commitment to the “complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.”
 No timetable or concrete measures for denuclearization have been presented. The statement has failed to draw a path to the “complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization (CVID)” demanded by the United States.
 It is regrettable that only an abstract agreement was brought about even in the summit talks.
 Measures taken by the North so far are only a freeze on nuclear tests and demolition of nuclear testing sites. There is no choice but to say that it is unclear whether Kim has decided on dismantling the country’s nuclear arsenal.
 To realize CVID, it is vital that North Korea declares its nuclear arms, nuclear materials and related facilities and then abandon them and have them taken out from the country. It is also necessary to make arrangements for a verification and inspection system involving such organizations as the International Atomic Energy Agency.
 What procedures should be followed to carry out these tasks? And by when should the tasks be completed? It is imperative to compile a roadmap on a series of necessary measures stipulating implementation procedures and deadlines.
 It is also unsatisfactory that the North’s ballistic missile issue was not mentioned in the statement. Kim referred to the closure of missile engine testing facilities, but it is imperative to press Pyongyang to abandon all its ballistic missiles.
 In a postsummit news conference, Trump emphasized the summit was a “beginning of an arduous process.” The work to flesh out what was agreed upon will be left to negotiations to be held between U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and a high-ranking North Korean official. There seemed to be not enough time to work out a breakthrough measure through the top-level negotiation.
 Concern remains about Trump’s diplomacy, which is reliant on breakthrough power. Trump should come up with a definite strategy by assembling experts for his administration, who have experience of negotiating with the North, and working together with Japan, South Korea and China.

Pressure must remain

In previous negotiations between the United States and North Korea, U.S. administrations fell prey to North Korean tactics aimed at throwing the United States off balance to gain rewards, as the U.S. side was restricted by the fact that each president serves a limited term of office. Efforts should be made to keep the new agreement sustainable, regardless of changes in administrations.
 The statement said that Trump is committed to providing “security guarantees” to the North Korean regime, and also included U.S.-North Korea joint efforts to “build a lasting and stable peace regime on the Korean Peninsula.”
 There is no doubt that Kim will use the statement as a tool for emphasizing the legitimacy of his regime and ending its international isolation.
 It is vital to be wary about a situation in which South Korea and China utilize the current mood of conciliation to relax sanctions on the North. Trump had every reason to demonstrate a policy of maintaining the sanctions until progress is made in the denuclearization process.
 It is worrying that Trump, in a post-summit press conference, referred to canceling U.S.-South Korea military exercises and reducing U.S. forces stationed in the South in the future. Due to his overly hasty attempt to seek a rapprochement with the North, Trump seems to have made excessive concessions.
 An immediate change will not be made in the situation in which the United States and South Korea confront the North across the military demarcation line. North Korean artillery capable of dealing a devastating blow to Seoul has long been deployed on the front line.
 As long as this threat is not removed, it is too early to discuss a review of the U.N. force established in the Korean War and the U.S. forces in South Korea. The United States must adhere to its principle of building a peace regime that will replace the current truce agreement after the completion of North Korea’s denuclearization.
 Trump said he had raised the issue of abducted Japanese nationals during his talks with Kim. This can be described as the arrival of an opportunity to overcome long-standing gridlock in the problem.

Prepare for summit

 Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has supported the U.S.-North Korea joint statement, calling it “a first step toward a comprehensive solution to various pending problems over North Korea.” He also emphasized, “The abduction issue must be negotiated between Japan and North Korea on Japan’s own responsibility.” He has every reason to seek talks with Kim.
 To realize the return home of abductees, there is no other way but to secure direct talks between the Japanese and North Korean leaders.
 The Japan-North Korea Pyongyang Declaration of 2002 states that Japan will extend economic assistance to the North after normalizing diplomatic ties between the two countries. A comprehensive solution to North Korea’s nuclear, missile and abduction issues is a precondition for normalizing diplomatic relations between the two nations. If Kim adopts positive measures, Japan has no reason to reject an improvement in bilateral relations.
 The government needs to facilitate an environment for holding a Japan-North Korea summit meeting by closely cooperating with the United States.

 (From The Yomiuri Shimbun, June 13, 2018)

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