North Korea Not Interested In Any Talks With U.S.

The Trump Administration's strategy in North Korea is an utter failure.

North Korea is making it clear that it isn’t interested in further talks with the United States, thus making it clear that the President’s strategy toward the DPRK has been an utter failure:

(CNN)North Korea has said it is not “interested” in further meetings with the US, a day after President Donald Trump tweeted a message to the country’s leader Sunday saying “See you soon!”

A statement from North Korean Foreign Ministry adviser Kim Kye Gwan, posted by state news agency, KCNA, said: “I interpreted President Trump’s tweet on the 17th to signify a new DPRK-US summit” but “we are no longer interested in these meetings that are useless to us.”

Kim suggested that the US is trying to portray “advancement in Korean Peninsula issue” but that it was a delay tactic.

“We will no longer give the US president something to boast about for nothing in return, and we must receive from the US what is corresponding to the results that President Trump is already boasting as his achievements,” Kim said.

CNN is seeking comment from the White House.

In his tweet, Trump told North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to reach a deal, saying: “You should act quickly, get the deal done” and hinted at another meeting, signing off with “See you soon!”

In October, Kim praised his “special” relationship with Trump, with one of North Korea’s most respected diplomats telling state media the two leaders maintain “trust in each other” even though working-level talks between Washington and Pyongyang in Sweden had collapsed earlier that month.

North Korean diplomats said they broke off those negotiations because of what they described as US intransigence. The State Department disagreed, saying the two sides had a “good discussion.”

Unlike his predecessors, Trump has embraced a top-down approach to nuclear negotiations with North Korea in the hopes of solving a problem that has eluded successive US administrations.

All of this comes after what has been a relatively quiet summer on the North Korean front. While there hasn’t been any news that can be considered progress in any talks between the United States and the DPRK, there are also hasn’t been a significant breakdown. This is the case notwithstanding the fact that the season started out with warnings from Pyongyang that there would not be progress in talks between the two countries if the United States continued to insist on unrealistic goals for the talks. As the summer wore down, though, North Korea began warning the United States that made specific reference to those goals and stated that time was running out for the resumption of negotiations, now we have what appears to be a final deadline of the end of the year.

All of this appears to be a specific reference to American insistence that the ultimate goal of negotiations is the elimination of the DPRK’s existing nuclear arsenal, something that Pyongyang clearly isn’t going to do. In the meantime, North Korea has seemingly become more belligerent, launching a series of short-range missile tests that President Trump has largely dismissed despite the obvious threat they pose to South Korea and Japan.

Specifically, it is clear that the Trump Administration continues to base negotiations on a faulty understanding of what North Korea agreed to in previous meetings and what it is likely to agree to in the future.

Immediately after his first meeting with Kim Jong Un in Singapore, for example, President Trump claimed that there was no longer a nuclear threat from the DPRK because of what happened at the meeting. The evidence since that time, though, it has been clear both that Kim Jong Un did not agree to what Trump claimed and that the summit itself, as well as the two subsequent meetings between the men in Hanoi and at the Demilitarized Zone, were little more than photo opportunities.

The extent to which this statement from Trump was erroneous became apparent only months after that first summit. At that point, it was reported that North Korea was increasing production of the fuel needed to make additional nuclear weapons and that it was concealing the existence of ongoing nuclear weapons research at secret facilities well hidden from both surveillance and, most likely, the ability of the United States to take the sites out in a military strike. Additionally, it became apparent in the days after the summit that the much-publicized destruction of the DPRK’s primary nuclear weapons test site, a much-hyped pre-summit event that was witnessed by American and other international journalists, was much less than met the eye and that the site could easily be rebuilt if needed in the future. Weeks later, we learned that the DPRK had also begun work on the construction of new ballistic missiles at yet another secret site.. Additionally, analysts who have seen satellite images say that the DPRK has made a second large nuclear reactor operational. This type of reactor is capable of making plutonium which is, of course, one of the main fuels used in the production of nuclear weapons. This new reactor can reportedly make four times as much plutonium as North Korea’s current reactor, which has been the source for the plutonium needed for its nuclear arsenal to date. Finally, in the wake of the summit in Hanoi that again appears to have been more hype than hope, Pyongyang appears to be making major repairs to a previously abandoned ballistic missile test facility that could be signs that they are planning either a new round of tests or a satellite launch.

More fundamentally, though, the American position in talks with North Korea ignores the fact that the United States and North Korea have fundamentally different ideas of what “denuclearization” means. For the United States, it essentially means that the North Koreans would give up their nuclear weapons, their ballistic missile technology, and their research programs in both areas. In exchange, it appears that the United States has made what seem to be vague at best promises about sanctions relief and the grandiose promises that President Trump has made about the benefits that would result from to the North Korean economy if it opened itself to the world even though there’s no indication that Kim Jong Un or the leadership in Pyongyang want that kind of future for their country.

It’s still possible, of course, for the United States to end up with an agreement with North Korea that would go a long way toward reducing tensions on the Korean Peninsula. For example, we could finally negotiate an end to the Korean War via a peace treaty that includes not just the DPRK and the United States but also China and South Korea. This treaty could conceivably include agreements that would reduce tensions along the Demilitarized Zone that would include the removal of troops on both sides that have spent the last 60 years and more on a hair-trigger for war. Among other things, this would significantly reduce the risk to some of the most heavily populated areas of South Korea, which at the moment remain vulnerable to a North Korean military strike that could come with virtually no warning. Perhaps, this would make it possible for the United States to remove some of its forces in the future.

Developments over the past year also offer a guide to what talks with the North Koreans could realistically achieve. For example, tensions on the Korean peninsula, which have been on a razor’s edge since the end of the Korean War and ramped up significantly during the tit-for-tat exchanges that took place between President Trump and the North Korean leader throughout 2017, have calmed down significantly over the past year. Additionally, the relationship between North and South Korea appears to be better than it has been in several years during which the DPRK was engaged in provocative action such as firing missiles at a South Korean naval base and attacking a South Korean naval vessel. Making those changes permanent would be a good thing. However, as I have noted before (see here, here and here), if the United States continues to insist that the ultimate goal of these talks is the idea that North Korea will give up its existing nuclear arsenal then it is guaranteeing that the negotiations will fail.

FILED UNDER: Donald Trump, Kim Jong Un, National Security, North Korea, North Korean Nuclear Program, Politicians, US Politics
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. CSK says:

    But did not President Trump assure us that the danger had passed and we could all sleep soundly–just because of his efforts? And what about Kim and Trump falling in love, as Trump claimed. Those exquisite letters betwixt them?

    Lovers’ quarrel?

  2. Michael Reynolds says:

    If this humiliation had been visited on Obama every Republican, man, woman or child, would be rending garments and crying “woe, woe!”

    Sheer bumbling incompetence. Trump’s Dunning-Kruger writ large.

    17
  3. OzarkHillbilly says:

    NK sees no reason for further talks because trump already gave them everything they could reasonably ask for. They long ago proved they don’t need the US and now they have no further use for trump. Now if trump got down on his knees and publicly begged Kim for another shot and promised that he would never again take him for granted, put Kim up on a pedestal where he belongs and treat him like the Princess he is, they would certainly accept trump’s contrition but Kim would just jilt him again in 6 mos.

  4. Kathy says:

    “We will no longer give the US president something to boast about for nothing in return, [..]”

    Even after Trump gave Kim that and more and a love letter?

    I’m willing to bet now Trump will make some concessions.

  5. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    Anxious to hear from all the sycophants who claimed Trump had managed to do what no one else had done, or could do.
    This has been a very bad week for Donnie.
    Sondland’s testimony, judging by his opening statement, isn’t going to make it any better.

  6. Slugger says:

    In order to balance the drubbing Trump got from North Korea, he is now trying to hurt our relationship with South Korea.
    https://www.cnn.com/2019/11/19/politics/south-korea-united-states-talks-ending-defense/index.html
    The entire peninsula will soon be full of Trump Diplomacy Genius!

  7. Jen says:

    It’s almost like the NK policy of literally every other administration that came before Trump knew what they were doing.

    This is not remotely surprising. Again, the reason that Obama didn’t meet with Kim wasn’t because he couldn’t, it was because he knew he shouldn’t. Kim got what he wanted (a meeting with the US President, which elevated Kim). He then got even more (cessation of military exercises).

    To say Trump is absolutely useless on foreign policy is to understate the damage he’s done. He’s worse than useless, he’s actively destructive.

  8. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    Also…CNN is reporting a new Pentagon report says that Trumps Syria pull-out (insert Carlin joke, here) is helping ISIS mount a come-back.

  9. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    @Jen:

    He then got even more (cessation of military exercises).

    He’s gotten even more than that, because Trump insisted SoKo pay more for our troop presence, then US negotiators walked away from the table, and SoKo formed an alliance with China.
    https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2019/11/18/china-signs-defence-agreement-south-korea-us-angers-seoul-demand/

  10. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    Seriously y’all…if you aren’t paying attention to the Sondland Hearing, you need to be.
    This is a John Dean moment.

  11. mattbernius says:

    Hey remember when the talking point was about how much Trump accomplished with Kim by not listening to NK experts who said that this strategy would backfire?

    Man, those were great days.

    (BTW: I full acknowledge that ultimately no administration has moved the needle with NK. In part that’s because their goals are fundamentally incompatible with the NK’s. Still, kudos to the Trump administration for actively finding new and stupid ways to put the US into a worse position than it was when he entered office.)

  12. CSK says:

    Somewhat OT, but apparently Trump didn’t tell Melania he was going for a “physical” on Saturday. She found this out from tv reports and was terrified he’d had a heart attack.

    How do I know this? Because Trump said so. Yes. He claims his wife was not aware he was going off for part of a “routine physical.” Of course he blamed the press for alarming her.

    I suppose she didn’t notice the motorcade departing.

  13. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl:
    Seriously…this average rich white guy is taking down Trump, Pence, Pompeo, Mulveney, Ron Johnson.
    Practice saying President Pelosi.

  14. Jax says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl: The GIF’s on Twitter are cracking me up. Lots of people under that bus. 😉

  15. gVOR08 says:

    @Slugger: And by demanding huge money from South Korea, may be driving them into the arms of the Chinese.

    I do not understand why Warren, Biden, et al are working so hard to stick themselves with cleaning up the messes Trump is leaving.

  16. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    “Kim would just jilt him again in 6 mos.”

    Gee, I don’t know. Six months is a long time. I was thinking weeks–maybe days, but probably not.

  17. Mister Bluster says:

    Kim would just jilt him again in 6 mos.

    It Hurts to be in Love

  18. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker: I was allowing time for more embarrassing grovelling episodes. Well, embarrassing for us.

  19. OzarkHillbilly says:
  20. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Slugger: @Daryl and his brother Darryl: @Jen:

    Make China Great Again.

  21. Kathy says:

    @mattbernius:

    (BTW: I full acknowledge that ultimately no administration has moved the needle with NK. In part that’s because their goals are fundamentally incompatible with the NK’s.[..])

    IMO, any chance to stop NK from acquiring nukes, or to give them up, ended when Bush the younger sent troops to Iraq.

    If Kim had any doubts, I’m sure they were erased when Putin sent troops to Ukraine.