Pyongyang (GPA) – The leadership in the DPRK isn’t being hostile, they’re just waiting for the US to deliver concessions.
Over the weekend the US mainstream media issued a series of reports portraying the talks between Washington and Pyongyang as, once again, being on death’s doorstep. With their usual commitment to making sure peace doesn’t break out in Korea, US outlets from the The New York Times, CNBC, and Bloomberg to The Atlantic and CNN, all set out this weekend to portray the most recent visit by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo as a disaster and the talks between the two countries as dead in the water.
Whether Pyongyang was being called ‘hostile’or accused of returning to ‘old’ behaviors, all the pundits agreed, it was the DPRK that was being irrational and sabotaging the talks with the US.
The spark that set off this series of hot takes on the Korea negotiations was a statement put out by the DPRK’s Foreign Ministry after Pompeo had departed which said that Pyongyang is disappointed by the “unilateral and gangster-like demand for denuclearization” from Washington. According to the Foreign Ministry, this frustration is a product of “The attitude and demands from the US side during the high-level talks” which “were nothing short of deeply regrettable.”
So what exactly is the problem? What is it that is frustrating Pyongyang that western media deems so unreasonable?
Well, apparently what Pyongyang is asking for that the US refuses to deliver on until “total denuclearization” is everything. In fact, the US has made it clear they don’t intend on extending any actual benefits, such as sanctions relief or normalized relations, to the DPRK until “total denuclearization” is complete, all weapons are declared, and international weapons inspectors are allowed into the DPRK.
The DPRK has expressed a willingness to do all of these things and has even started making concessions to the US with moves such as returning several US prisoners on one of Pompeo’s previous trips as well as offering to repatriate the remains of US Korean war dead.
However, like any nation would, the DPRK has expressed an interest in actually receiving something in return for coming to the table with the US. Despite how the US media may portray this, it has long been the policy that any talks with the US should be built on trust and allow new levels of benefits to Pyongyang in exchange for each tangible step towards denuclearization.
So far, the US has delivered nothing despite the DPRK’s shows of good will. The US is also standing fairly firmly by this position and still seems intent on keeping the DPRK from rejoining the world until it is fully denuclearized in a manner similar to that of Libya. Apparently, the DPRK’s delegation during this visit with Pompeo also brought up officially ending the Korean War – a seemingly reasonable step in starting these major PEACE talks – a step the US is seemingly unwilling to take.
This has been a pattern that has played out for as long as the US has been negotiating with the DPRK since the end of the Cold War. Every time the DPRK has expressed complete willingness to come to the table and work towards a denuclearized peninsula they have asked for some assurances from the US along the way and every time the US has failed to deliver on their end of the bargain.
It now seems Trump is following the footsteps of the Presidents who came before him in saying that he wants peace with Pyongyang but then failing to deliver on any US promises. The US media loves to portray Korea pointing this out as somehow being ‘unreasonable’ but this factor has remained consistent for the past 30 plus years.
The good news is that, despite what US media says, the talks between the US and DPRK are not dead. Following the Foreign Ministry statement, Kim Jong Un made a personal statement saying he would still like to work with the US and continue to build on the “friendly relationship and trust” from the Singapore summit.
There is still a historic chance for peace on the Korean Peninsula. Trump must ignore the western media and continue to work for peace with the DPRK and realize that delivering on US promises isn’t a weakness, it’s diplomacy. If Trump wants to avoid the same pitfalls as past administrations, he must treat Pyongyang with the respect due to another state’s legitimate government.