North Korea: Getting Beyond Brinkmanship
US officials have cited North Korea as the hardest intelligence collection target in the world; the problem of understanding its opaque leadership has challenged two generations of policymakers. Today, the rambunctiousness of its nuclear program belies a bleak, troubled economy, where millions face starvation and the regime faces such cash and technology shortfalls that it wasn’t clear it had a plane capable of flying to a Trump-Kim summit. What’s the future of the so-called Hermit Kingdom, nuclear or not?
- 2018 Festival
When Kim Jong Un and Donald Trump sat across from each other in Singapore in June of 2018, it was a truly historic meeting. But was it a productive one? Kevin Rudd and Victor Cha aren’t so sure:
The next step in North Korean denuclearization is something that’s been eluding negotiators for decades, according to Rudd. In order for the US or other countries to achieve what they call CVID (complete, verifiable, irreversible denuclearization), North Korea first has to disclose the entirety of their nuclear arsenal. If North Korea doesn’t detail its entire arsenal, how can anyone be sure North Korea is in full compliance with any agreement they make?
Big IdeaIf we’re going to be talking about denuclearization, then the bottom line is we’ve got to know what we’re dealing with. So we will need, sooner or later, a declaration by the North Koreans of the totality of their nuclear capability.Kevin Rudd
Victor Cha has a blunt answer to Dickerson’s question about what could entice North Korea to denuclearize:
John Dickerson: Victor, I feel like we’ve heard so much about how North Korea’s prestige is wrapped up in its nuclear program. What could we give them to give up their nuclear program?
Victor Cha: Frankly, I think there’s nothing we can give them to get rid of their nuclear program. They started landscaping the ground for this program in 1962, which was two years before the Chinese exploded a nuclear device. They devoted a good portion of their national resources since then to this program and in December of last year they said, ‘we’ve accomplished our goal.’ So the notion that, after all that time they're ready to sit with President Trump or Secretary Pompeo and then push it all across the table and say normalized relations, peace treaty, these sorts of things; it’s hard for me to imagine. However, this is not to say that the North Koreans don’t want normalized relations, peace treaty, access to international financial institutions, lifting of sanctions. They want all those things, but they want those things ultimately with some nuclear capability. In the end, they want to have their cake and eat it too.