South Korea’s Foreign Minister, Kang Kyung-wha, appeared on CBS’ “Face the Nation” on Sunday to discuss ongoing diplomatic talks with Kim Jong Un’s North Korean regime.
According to Kang, North Korea’s Supreme Leader has “given his word” that he is actually committed to denuclearization, a significant change of heart after months of apocalyptic rhetoric.
“He’s given his word. But the significance of his word is, is quite, quite weighty in the sense that this is the first time that the words came directly from the North Korean supreme leader himself, and that has never been done before,” she said.
Of course, until Kim and U.S. President Donald Trump actually meet to discuss the terms of North Korea’s potential nuclear disarmament, it stands to reason that Kim is merely saying what he believes needs to be said in order to achieve his goals, which it stands to reason may likely include finding a way to save face while simultaneously ending the economic sanctions levied by both the United States and the United Nations that appear to have had a significant affect not only on state-level operations within Kim’s nation, but on his people’s daily lives as well.
Amid Kim’s fire and brimstone bluster, it has long been assumed that Kim’s nuclear aspirations were actually tied to a larger global trade strategy. Effectively, Kim hoped to become a nuclear power before re-engaging with the world at large, negotiating a more beneficial commerce structure for North Korea from the elevated position of a mighty nuclear power. It is possible that sanctions successfully pushed Kim to the point of negotiation, just as it is possible that these talks, between North Korea’s leader and the President of the United States, were always the goal: legitimizing Kim’s position as a global leader and demonstrating on the world stage that even the mighty United States of America has to engage with Kim as a peer.
However, a troubling history of North Korea using the escalation of tensions to precipitate international talks in the interest of accepting foreign aid while simply pretending to end nuclear programs has left many cynical about Kim’s motives in the coming months. After having his nuclear programs written into the very constitution of the North Korean state, his sudden change of heart has left some questioning the sincerity of Kim’s position.
Over the weekend, U.S. National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster met with his Japanese and South Korean counterparts, Chung Eui-yong and Shotaro Yachi, to discuss strategy ahead of a number of impending summits with North Korean officials. The three agreed to maintain close lines of communication throughout the upcoming talks in order to ensure the three nations approach the diplomatic effort with a unified approach. They also expressed concerns about ensuring these new talks didn’t make the same mistakes that the world had seen before.
Although the three officials did not elaborate on what those mistakes were, it seems likely that they were referring to the historical precedent of North Korea claiming to end their weapons programs in exchange for aid, while secretly continuing to move them forward.
“It’s not a matter of trusting. It’s a matter of discussing, and pressing for action. And once you see those actions, then you move forward further.” Kang said on Sunday.
Image courtesy of the Associated Press