Sum­mit presents op­por­tu­nity for Kim

For­mer ne­go­tia­tors ad­vise him to be spe­cific with nu­clear deal

The Washington Times Daily - - FRONT PAGE - BY GUY TAY­LOR

SEOUL | Two for­mer top U.S. ne­go­tia­tors in talks that melted down with North Korea in 2009 have some ad­vice for North Korean leader Kim Jong-un ahead of his sec­ond sum­mit with Pres­i­dent Trump: Don’t blow this spe­cial chance, stop foot-drag­ging, get spe­cific about the de­nu­cle­ariza­tion steps you’re ac­tu­ally go­ing to take and be ready to clar­ify what you re­ally want in ex­change for aban­don­ing your nukes.

That’s the mes­sage for­mer Am­bas­sadors Christo­pher R. Hill and Joseph DeTrani of­fered in suc­ces­sive speeches at a con­fer­ence this week­end in South Korea’s cap­i­tal, where the high stakes of the Trump-Kim sum­mit slated for Viet­nam at the end of the month took cen­ter stage.

“It is very un­usual for any coun­try to have two sum­mits with the Amer­i­can pres­i­dent,” said Mr. Hill, who was the lead U.S. diplo­mat in mul­ti­party talks with Py­ongyang dur­ing the Ge­orge W. Bush and Barack Obama ad­min­is­tra­tions.

“As they come to Viet­nam, it’s time to get down to work,” said Mr. Hill. “I would sug­gest that North Korea start talk­ing about the list of what their nu­clear pro­grams are. … [and] what or­der they would like to see these nu­clear pro­grams taken away.”

Mr. DeTrani, a for­mer CIA of­fi­cial who served as the State Depart­ment’s spe­cial en­voy for North Korea talks be­fore their col­lapse nearly a decade ago, of­fered a sim­i­lar take, sug­gest­ing a lack of spe­cific move­ment on de­nu­cle­ariza­tion dur­ing the months since Mr. Trump and Mr. Kim met in June in Sin­ga­pore has been frus­trat­ing.

“There’s go­ing to have to be some heavy lift­ing. There’s go­ing to have to be some de­tails put on the ta­ble, be­cause I don’t think any­one is go­ing to be pa­tient and say, ‘Let’s wait another six months and wait for another heads of state meet­ing,’” he said. “There needs to be some move­ment and the move­ment has to be on the core is­sue, which is com­plete, ver­i­fi­able, ir­re­versible dis­man­tle­ment of all nu­clear weapons, nu­clear weapons fa­cil­i­ties, which in­clude plu­to­nium and highly en­riched ura­nium.”

The straight ahead mes­sag­ing from two for­mer of­fi­cials who know what it’s like to ne­go­ti­ate with the North Kore­ans, comes as spec­u­la­tion and mo­men­tum mount ahead the sum­mit in Hanoi.

U.S. Spe­cial Rep­re­sen­ta­tive for North Korea Stephen E. Biegun — the work­ing-level ne­go­tia­tor in the role Mr. DeTrani held years ago — spent much of last week on a rare visit to Py­ongyang in talks with his North Korean coun­ter­part, pre­par­ing for the sum­mit.

“Our dis­cus­sions were pro­duc­tive,” Mr. Biegun said dur­ing a sub­se­quent meet­ing with South Korean For­eign Min­is­ter Kang Kyung-wha in Seoul, ac­cord­ing to The As­so­ci­ated Press.

While he said there is “hard work to do” be­fore Mr. Trump and Mr. Kim meet, other U.S. of­fi­cials said Mr. Biegun is slated to hold another work­ing-level round with the North Kore­ans be­fore the sum­mit.

But re­gional ex­perts warn that time is in­creas­ingly short for se­ri­ous pre-ne­go­ti­a­tions to un­fold, and wari­ness has grown that Mr. Kim aims to strike a deal di­rectly with Mr. Trump for in­terim sanc­tions re­lief in ex­change for some­thing far less than a to­tal dis­man­tle­ment of the North Korean nu­clear ar­se­nal.

Mr. Biegun and other top Trump ad­vis­ers have said they are com­mit­ted to keep­ing sanc­tions pres­sure on North Korea un­til it ir­re­versibly de­nu­cle­arizes, but pri­vate an­a­lysts have ex­pressed con­cern the pres­i­dent may con­cede to some form of re­lief if Mr. Kim agrees to aban­don bal­lis­tic mis­siles that pose a di­rect threat to the U.S. home­land.

The Korea Times, an English-lan­guage news­pa­per in Seoul, re­ported Satur­day that Mr. Biegun and a team he brought to Py­ongyang last week fo­cused their ef­forts on push­ing for the dis­man­tle­ment of the North’s in­tercon­ti­nen­tal bal­lis­tic mis­siles (ICBMs) — some­thing U.S. in­tel­li­gence has long ex­pressed con­cern about, given the prospect such mis­siles could be mounted with nu­clear war­heads ca­pa­ble of tar­get­ing U.S. cities.

While the re­port claimed that the U.S. of­fi­cials also pushed for the com­plete clo­sure of the North’s Yong­byon nu­clear fa­cil­ity, The Korea Times cited an un­named source as say­ing that “among Washington’s de­mands was for Py­ongyang to list its ICBM de­vel­op­ers.”

That the mis­sile pro­gram may be a fo­cus of work­ing-level talks sug­gests that Mr. Biegun’s team could be seek­ing a small break­through to be an­nounced when Mr. Trump and Mr. Kim meet. But it’s un­clear whether the North Kore­ans will be will­ing to com­mit to any­thing ver­i­fi­able, par­tic­u­larly with re­gard to any ma­jor de­nu­cle­ariza­tion steps ul­ti­mately be­ing sought by Washington.

At their Sin­ga­pore sum­mit in June, Mr. Trump and Mr. Kim inked a broadly worded state­ment agree­ing to pur­sue the to­tal de­nu­cle­ariza­tion of the Korean Penin­sula.

‘It’s not one-sided’

Mr. Hill said Satur­day that with­out spe­cific steps and clear time­line, talk of to­tal de­nu­cle­ariza­tion is just talk.

“For the North Kore­ans to talk about de­nu­cle­ariza­tion with­out a time frame is al­most, to me, talk­ing about it in a kind of bib­li­cal sense — that is, at the end of the world they’ll con­sider de­nu­cle­ariza­tion,” he said. “That’s not go­ing to work for any Amer­i­can pres­i­dent.”

“It’s im­por­tant in talk­ing about de­nu­cle­ariza­tion they be­gin to show some de­nu­cle­ariza­tion,” added Mr. Hill, who was U.S. am­bas­sador to South Korea be­fore serv­ing as as­sis­tant sec­re­tary of state for East Asian and Pa­cific af­fairs dur­ing the Bush and Obama years.

He and Mr. DeTrani spoke along­side other for­mer U.S. of­fi­cials and po­lit­i­cal lead­ers, as well as sev­eral lead­ing South Korean ex­perts on North Korea at a con­fer­ence hosted by The Washington Times and Se­gye Ilbo, a Seoul-based news­pa­per. The event was at­tended by a range of high-level South Korean of­fi­cials, in­clud­ing Prime Min­is­ter Lee Nak-yon.

Mr. DeTrani said the North Kore­ans need to be pre­pared to present a list of all of their “fa­cil­i­ties, nu­clear weapons [and] the per­son­nel who’ve worked on these is­sues.” This is not to men­tion the es­tab­lish­ment of “a ver­i­fi­ca­tion regime that’s very com­pre­hen­sive, that per­mits nu­clear mon­i­tors to visit non-de­clared, sus­pect nu­clear sites,” he said, sug­gest­ing that the like­li­hood is high for an es­ca­la­tion of U.S.-North Korea ten­sions with­out a break­through at the sum­mit.

That could mean a swift re­turn to the ten­sion that gripped both sides af­ter Py­ongyang hurled rhetor­i­cal threats at the U.S. and South Korea in 2017 and car­ried out its sixth nu­clear bomb test nu­clear test — a pe­riod that also saw Mr. Trump threaten to rain “fire and fury like the world has never seen” on North Korea if it did not halt its provo­ca­tions.

“I can as­sure you, if we don’t suc­ceed now at this im­por­tant in­flec­tion point, the pos­si­bil­ity of go­ing back to max­i­mum pres­sure and ‘fire and fury’ is real and we know the po­ten­tial con­se­quences of go­ing back to that pol­icy,” Mr. DeTrani said.

At the same time, he said, the U.S. has to be pre­pared to get se­ri­ous about what con­ces­sions it is will­ing to make if Mr. Kim comes through with ver­i­fi­able de­nu­cle­ariza­tion steps.

“It’s not one-sided,” Mr. DeTrani said. “For the North Kore­ans to de­nu­cle­arize in a com­pre­hen­sive way, that’s a very ma­jor strate­gic de­ci­sion on their part. … We have to be pre­pared to put things on the ta­ble and I think what we’re go­ing to see with Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump is we are pre­pared to have ac­tions for ac­tions. We will re­cip­ro­cate.

“It doesn’t mean we’re go­ing forgo sanc­tions,” he said. “[But] there are many other things that can be done.”

On the im­me­di­ate front, the U.S. could con­sider open­ing a li­ai­son of­fice in Py­ongyang, agree­ing to a for­mal dec­la­ra­tion end­ing the Korean War — some­thing North Korea has been seek­ing for some time — and per­haps ink­ing a for­mal “non-ag­gres­sion” pact to be signed by Mr. Trump and Mr. Kim, Mr. DeTrani said.

On the North Korean side, Mr. Hill said Py­ongyang must seize the mo­ment to clar­ify what ex­actly that it wants from Washington.

“I would sug­gest, if I were the North Kore­ans and if I were con­cerned about sanc­tions,” he said. “I’d be talk­ing about what are the sanc­tions that the U.S. might be pre­pared to re­lax in the con­text of de­nu­cle­ariza­tion.”

Mean­while, South Korea and the U.S. struck a new deal Sun­day that in­creases Seoul’s con­tri­bu­tion for the cost of the Amer­i­can mil­i­tary pres­ence on its soil, over­com­ing pre­vi­ous failed ne­go­ti­a­tions that caused wor­ries about their decades-long al­liance, The As­so­ci­ated Press re­ported.

South Korea last year pro­vided about $830 mil­lion, cov­er­ing roughly 40 per­cent of the cost of the de­ploy­ment of 28,500 U.S. sol­diers whose pres­ence is meant to de­ter ag­gres­sion from North Korea. Mr. Trump has pushed for South Korea to pay more.

On Sun­day, chief ne­go­tia­tors from the two coun­tries signed a new cost-shar­ing plan, which re­quires South Korea to pay about $924 mil­lion in 2019, Seoul’s For­eign Min­istry said in a state­ment.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

HIGH STAKES IN VIET­NAM: North Korean leader Kim Jong-un is sched­uled to meet with Pres­i­dent Trump in Viet­nam for a sec­ond sum­mit about de­nu­cle­ariza­tion. In Seoul, South Korea, for­mer am­bas­sadors of­fered ad­vice to Mr. Kim about how to pro­ceed with the rare and im­por­tant op­por­tu­nity.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Last June, Pres­i­dent Trump met with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Sin­ga­pore and the two inked a broadly worded state­ment agree­ing to pur­sue the to­tal de­nu­cle­ariza­tion of the Korean penin­sula.

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