The USA and North Korea – What does Denuclearization mean?


Next week, North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un is going to meet with South Korean President Moon Jae-in to discuss different topics one of which is going to be denuclearization. This term has been in the media in recent weeks, and just like many, we are not sure what it means. Is it giving up on the nuclear weapons for? Or destroying all the weapons assembled so far? These are just some of the explanations of the term, but what is it that America wants North Korea to do exactly? The summit was planned, and US President Donald Trump is going to meet with Kim Jong-Un to discuss denuclearization, but America needs to show precise demands if they want the talks to be successful.

The reason why the meeting didn’t happen earlier is that North Korea wanted the US troops to withdraw from the region. But they do not anymore, and the summit will take place. Adam Mount, a senior fellow at the Federation of American Scientists, said: “North Korea has been saying all the right things … they want this summit to occur, and they’re doing what it takes to make it happen.”

However, North Korea has been quiet, and Kim’s public statements were vague and not so promising. In Beijing, at the end of March, Kim Jong-Un said: “It is our consistent stand to be committed to denuclearization on the peninsula, in accordance with the will of late President Kim Il Sung and late General Secretary Kim Jong Il.”
But are the three presidents have the same thing in mind when they talk about denuclearization?

The US and South Korea

For the United States and South Korea, denuclearization means only one thing. Josh Pollack, a senior research associate at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, said: “It’s called CVID — complete, verifiable, irreversible dismantlement of the North Korean program.” The word “irreversible” means that once the North Korean nuclear program is dismantled, it cannot be launched again. Moreover, this process needs to be under scrutiny and someone independent needs to oversee it. “Unless there is independent monitoring … any unilateral undertakings by the North Koreans will probably not be worth the paper they’re written on,” said Kevin Rudd, former Australian PM, and diplomat.

Two countries have advocated denuclearization of North Korea for decades, and this is the first time that some progress could be made. In 1991, Pyongyang joined Seoul and signed a “joint declaration of the Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.” After that, they requested international aid and promised to dismantle the program, but the words were all there was. After almost three decades, hope is rekindled, and this time it could be different. Even though we are doubtful that two sides have the same idea of denuclearization, Moon said: “I do not think there is any difference in the concept [between North and South Korea].”

North Korea

According to Xinhua, Chinese news, Kim Jong-Un didn’t speak of Pyongyang ending its program when he promised the talks in Beijing in March. He referred to “denuclearization on the (Korean) Peninsula.”

If you are still not sure what the difference is, Kim Jong-Un considers the denuclearization of the entire peninsula which means that both North and South Korea would have to give up on the nuclear program. They also consider the American presence on the South Korean soil to be the direct threat despite the fact that the US hasn’t installed any nuclear weapons since 1992. Pollack noted: “They really are threatened by superior American and South Korean military power, they need nuclear weapons to try and prevent an invasion in their view. They feel the need to equate their nuclear program with the (US and South Korean) military alliance and claims the military alliance is a nuclear threat, when there’s no real grounds for that.”

Pollack also made another interesting point that North Korean leader wants to create a gap between Washington and Seoul with his decision to discuss denuclearization. Pollack said: “The pessimistic interpretation is that Kim is intent on making concession after concession in private to show Moon that he is the reasonable one, with the expectation that Trump will ultimately be unable or unwilling to deliver.”

With this in mind, the dialogues would most likely be futile. The two sides have different views on denuclearization, and North Korea will not abandon its nuclear program while South Korea keeps developing it and the US forces stay in the region.


As one of the founders of Knjaz Milos tries to bring all the latest news regarding politics. He loves history and is passionate about writing.
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