When US President Donald Trump returned from Singapore from the long-anticipated summit, he tweeted: “Everybody can now feel much safer than the day I took office. There is no longer a Nuclear Threat from North Korea.” It has been three weeks since the summit, and there is no evidence at all that North Korea started doing anything regarding the issue.
Just landed – a long trip, but everybody can now feel much safer than the day I took office. There is no longer a Nuclear Threat from North Korea. Meeting with Kim Jong Un was an interesting and very positive experience. North Korea has great potential for the future!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 13, 2018
To make matters worse, it appears that North Korea is improving its weapons and is adding more to the pile. Just in the last week, thanks to the satellite imagery, we can see that the nuclear facility in Yongbyon is being upgraded and according to The Wall Street Journal, Kim has expanded a key solid-fuel missile facility.
According to the US intelligence officials, and as reported by the Washington Post, North Korea was doing everything to hide the nuclear weapons from any future inspection. They are going that far that they want to hide everything, including the existence of the uranium-enrichment site that is known as Kangson. The NBC was also one of the outlets that reported this and one of the officials warned: “Work is ongoing to deceive us on the number of facilities, the number of weapons, the number of missiles. We are watching closely.”
Those who were skeptical about the meeting between the two presidents are not surprised. Jeffrey Lewis, the director of the East Asia Nonproliferation Program at Middlebury College, said: “Kim Jong Un is not offering to give up his nuclear weapons. The North Koreans have never—not once—offered to disarm. That should be a clue.”
Meanwhile, the White House refuses to accept the simple truth. Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders is avoiding questions about the human-rights abuses in North Korea whereas National Security Adviser John Bolton doesn’t want to speak in public about denuclearization. According to Axios, some of the White House officials are pumped up about the talks that they are looking forward to another Trump-Kim summit that would take place in September. If this were to happen, the further dialogue would be held in the United States, which would be Kim’s first visit to the country.
The White House believes that things are moving in the right direction. As Bolton put it: “We’re very well aware of North Korea’s patterns of behavior over decades of negotiating with the United States. There’s not any starry-eyed feeling among the group doing this.” He pointed out that before any potential meeting between two leaders, North Korea would have to show some progress.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo claimed that North Korea could denuclearize in two and a half years, but Bolton accelerated the process, saying that Pompeo “will be discussing . . . how to dismantle all of their W.M.D. and ballistic missile programs in a year.”
In the meantime, Jeffrey Lewis was not so optimistic: “The administration is just trying to bluff its way through this, making promises that it can’t deliver. Maybe we’ll let them get away with that because no one wants to go back to 2017. But the moment the U.S. gives Kim an ultimatum on disarmament, the process will collapse.”
The elephant in the room is the lack of agreement over the terms of denuclearization. Kim sees this as a possible option and he never committed himself to do it while Suzanne DiMaggio, a senior fellow at the New America Foundation says of the Washington side: “U.S. negotiators pressed the North Koreans to include at least a common understanding of what ‘denuclearization’ means in the Singapore document, but they were not able to get there.”
She also added: “The fact that Trump has declared North Korea is no longer a nuclear threat hasn’t helped. It signals that there is no urgency,” she told me. “This was always going to be a long process, and the administration’s approach is reinforcing Pyongyang’s preference to play a long game.”
Pompeo and Bolton have been trying to justify Trump’s words ever since the president returned to the United States. He said that North Korea is no longer a threat, Pompeo was trying to explain that the threat is not as grave as it used to be. Also, Trump claimed that Pyongyang had returned the remains of 200 US service members killed during the Korean War. However, Pompeo said that America is optimistic and that the remains should arrive shortly, but the US hasn’t received anything by now.
Donald Trump obviously has some issues when he tries to make a difference between fantasy and reality. The process of denuclearization is far from certain, and even if North Korea agrees, the process would be long and tiring for both sides.