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2018.05.25 (Fri) Print

Is North Korea Serious? James E. Auer

Singapore: USA President Trump: “Are you ready to denuclearize?”
North Korea Leader Kim: “Yes, but it will take many years; let’s begin discussions soon.”
President Trump: “Good-bye.”

     Many Japanese, Americans, and at least some South Koreans suspect North Korea’s intentions and wisely caution against any relaxation of pressure without real progress from Pyongyang. There are many pessimists who understandably believe the North Koreans will talk and welcome “carrots” as they have many times in the past but will not follow through. President Trump and Prime Minister Abe should take strong stands opposing any relaxation of sanctions without real progress; after all, it is only because of the severity of sanctions so far which has brought North Korea to at least offer some hope of real change.

     If Kim is truly willing to change course, what would be a meaningful way to proceed to satisfy, the US, and Japan?

     I have no expertise in nuclear technology and no knowledge of how to carry out denuclearization. But I would like to offer a strong supporter of the US-Japan alliance’s simplistic two-year, three-step program which, if proposed and carried out, would possibly be acceptable to average Japanese and American citizens.

     Step one would be a North Korean provided inventory of all its existing nuclear weapons and ICBM capable missiles and a promise [guaranteed by inspections] to disassemble half of both by the end of 2019. In response to the DPRK’s verified, complete fulfillment of that promise the US, Japan and the Republic of Korea would lessen some sanctions on the North.

     Step two would require the elimination of the remainder of nuclear weapons and long range missiles and the identification and locations of shorter range missiles stored on land or in caves capable of attacking Japan and South Korea by the end of 2020. Supposing North Korea would argue they need some missiles for "self-defense," they should be required at least to identify the locations of shorter range missiles. Upon verified fulfillment of this step more sanctions would be lifted.

     Step three which would be required also by 2020 would be a full North Korean accounting of Japanese citizens abducted by North Korea, a return of any who are living and the return of remains of any who have passed away. Completion of this step would be followed by recognition of North Korea by the United States and opportunities for economic cooperation with North Korea from Japan and South Korea. All the sanctions should not be lifted until the abduction issue is fully resolved.

     Is such a program too naïve and/or simplistic? Probably so but I hope this or another truly meaningful program of what is mandatory prior to easing pressure on North Korea which average, non-expert Americans and Japanese can understand easily will be seriously adhered to.

     Should such a program or one equivalent to it be carried out successfully, then I believe President Trump and Prime Minister Abe should be considered for the Nobel Peace Prize.

James E. Auer is professor emeritus at Vanderbilt University