The Current Cold War: Nuclear Negotiations Between North Korea And The U.S.A

North Korea is currently under sanctions from both the United Nations and the United States of America. The sanctions are a result of North Korea’s blatant disregard for human rights and their withdrawal from the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty of 1985 in 2003. In 2006 North Korea did their first nuclear test, spurring the United Nations Security Council to impose sanctions on North Korea as a result.

The U.N sanctions are primarily concerned with; asset freezes for individuals involved in nuclear programs, selective import bans, capping exports (both on material objects and labor), and an import ban on natural gas. The U.S sanctions focus more on the restriction of financial activities amongst specific business’ and private individuals. They have the main design to hinder Pyongyang’s development of nuclear power and nuclear weapons.

Other nations such as Japan and South Korea have historically also sanctioned North Korea, alongside the European Union which also has sanctions against North Korea.

In 2011 when former leader of North Korea Kim Jong-il died, his son Kim Jong-un took over the reign. Image: Pixabay.

The U.S has previously eased sanctions temporarily, based on promises from North Korea to quit and dismantle all nuclear activity and test sites. North Korea has notoriously not kept their end of the deal on these arrangements. In 2011 when former leader of North Korea Kim Jong-il died, his son Kim Jong-un took over the reign.  Kim Jong-un has been commonly agreed upon as “rationality actor”, who wants international approval. This makes him stand apart as a much more visible leader when compared to his elusive farther.

North Korea is incapable of achieving economic stability until most of the sanctions against them are lifted. One of the things that Kim Jong-un realizes is that for this to happen bridges must be mended. An example is the promise of lasting peace on the Korean Peninsula between South and North Korea. Examples of attempts to work towards this peace includes North Korea adjusting their time-zone, so North and South Korea can move towards becoming one, and North Korea encouraging travel and cooperation between the two Koreas.

Another attempt at mending bridges was the recent Hanoi summit where the U.S and North Korea was supposed to negotiate a potential deal. The deal would ideally for, North Korea, lift all U.S sanctions on the country, and ideally, for the U.S, put a permanent stop to North Korea’s nuclear development programs.

However, the Hanoi summit ended prematurely, and no deal was reached.  The Hanoi summit was the second attempt at negotiations between USA and North Korea.U.S President Donald Trump claims to have left the negotiations early because North Korean demands were unrealistic. Allegedly,  North Korea demanded that the U.S sanctions be lifted entirely, before they would agree to nuclear dismantling. The United States was not prepared to meet these demands.

After last years nuclear summit North Korea promised to start dismantling the Sohae Satellite Launching Station, but it has now been reported that work has begun to restore parts of it. President Trump has stated that he would be “very, very disappointed” if Kim Jong-un broke his promise.

What do the failed Hanoi negotiations mean?

For North Korea, the no-deal was a setback for Kim Jong-un and his plans for economic rehabilitation. For a long time Kim Jong-un argued that economic growth was directly related to nuclear development. This argument proposed that North Korea needed the nuclear power to protect themselves from a potential U.S invasion. Now Kim Jong-un seems to have realized that there can’t be any economic growth in North Korea until the sanctions are lifted. According to Kim, economic rehabilitation his number one priority.

For South Korea the no-deal summit was a blow to Presidents Moon Jae-in’s aspirations. Moon Jae-in has pursued the possibility of an inter-Korean area which would include a factory park and a tourist zone. The inter-Korean economic initiative is called the “New Korean Peninsula Economic Map”. Moon argues that this could spur growth amongst a dismal economy and the worst job market in a decade.

Also, the Hanoi summit could have put a formal end to the Korean war, that ran from 1950 to 1953, but continues officially to this day. Moreover, the north could have demanded that the U.S withdraw its around 28,500 troops from the south. However, President Trump made it clear that withdrawing troops was not an option.

Japan remains hesitant of the possible security compromises from the U.S to North Korea. North Korea has in the past test fired missiles over Japan threatening millions of Japanese citizens. Japan remains firm that North Korea should have no sanctions relief what-so-ever, until they take irrevocable action towards dismantling their nuclear development.

There is also an emotive aspect for Japan. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe made sure President Trump did not forget that in 2002 North Korea admitted to kidnapping Japanese citizens to train them as spies in the 1970’s and 1980’s.

China who is the ally of North Korea, has urged USA to ease sanctions in order for North Korea to continue nuclear disarmament. For China North Korea acts as a useful element for keeping U.S troops in South Korea and Japan in check.

Vietnam played the role of graceful host. Vietnamese diplomats, renowned for mending bridges and creating peace between former enemies, asked that the Hanoi Summit was not labeled as a failure. Instead they urged people to remember that these kind of delicate peace negotiations often take considerable time. What we see now is the delicate push-pull dynamics of several nations striving for power.

After last years nuclear summit North Korea promised to start dismantling the Sohae Satellite Launching Station, but it has now been reported that work has begun to restore parts of it. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

The opposing sides seem somewhat evenly split, and certain countries, like South Korea, would definitely benefit from economic growth within North Korea. While Japan has an equally valid reason to be wary of North Korea’s promise to denuclearize, as they have been broken before.

China seems to benefit from having North Korea as a buffer and are encouraging sanctions relief for North Korea, with bylaws that ensure North Korea isn’t a security threat to China. It has been theorized that a third summit would be just as likely to fail. This is due to neither party being willing to meet the others demand.

North Korea is not prepared undergo complete, irrevocable denuclearization before the U.S sanctions have been lifted. North Korea is concerned that having no nuclear power would leave them vulnerable to foreign invasions, but simultaneously are the country in dire need of an economic boost. The U.S has been unable to reach an agreement with North Korea because of what they claim are unreasonable demands. Perhaps the U.S lack of flexibility negotiation-wise is what is costing them this deal.

However, with the travesty of Otto Warmbier North Korea certainly is in a bad position, although Kim claims he did not know of Warmbier’s capture and President Trump says he believes Kim. Either way, White House national security adviser, John Bolton, told Fox News that President Trump was open for another round negotiations. Meanwhile, the rest of the world remains poised and ready while all concerned nations prepare for the next round of the current cold war.

Lærke Vinther Christiansen

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