Under North Korea Threat, US Sticks to Its Denuclearization Demand

Ahead of the first anniversary of the US-Singapore summit on June 12, North Korea is threatening not to honor their agreements from the summit.

It came as a statement through North Korea’s official media on Tuesday. It said if the United States does not give up its policy of insisting North Korea unilaterally surrender its nuclear weapons, the Singaporean agreement may be at risk. It said if the United States does not come up with something new before “it is too late,” the joint agreement will become only “a blank sheet of paper,” and said North Korea’s patience is limited.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo didn’t respond to this directly, but he told The Washington Times in an interview that the Trump administration is still willing to sit down with North Korea and “have a serious conversation.” At the same time, he said, if North Korea wants the United States to lift the sanctions, it must abandon its nuclear weapons. Pompeo said the United States’s position on this issue is still “unambiguous.”

President of the International Council on Korean Studies Bruce E. Bechtol said he thinks North Korea is hoping the United States will say something they’ve always said: “Never mind. Let’s just talk.” But, “[t]hat’s not gonna happen with this President,” he said. “He is gonna stick to his guns.”

At the Singapore Summit in June last year, the United States and North Korea issued a joint statement in which North Korea committed to the comprehensive denuclearization of the peninsula.

However, at the Hanoi summit in February this year, North Korea only wanted to give up its nuclear weapons in a step-by-step manner, in exchange for the U.S. completely lifting the sanctions first. This demand was rejected by President Trump, and negotiations have been in a deadlock since then.

Last month, President Trump said that he does not believe that North Korea is ready to negotiate with the United States. Experts believe that because time is on the side of the United States, and they can continue their sanctions, North Korea will eventually be forced to return to the negotiating table.

“But the sanctions we have on them now are really hurting, and the north Koreans will be ready when the sanctions hurt them enough that they’re ready to come back to the table,” Bechtol said.