Government Policy

Moon’s nuclear diplomacy a ‘dangerous gamble’: analysts

South Korean President Moon Jae-in has

embarked on a dangerous gamble, analysts said, after he secured only

minimal concessions from Kim Jong Un to reboot the North's nuclear

negotiations with Washington.

Moon flew to Pyongyang this week for his third summit with Kim seeking a

concrete gesture to rekindle the stalled denuclearisation talks between the

United States and the North.

But he returned Thursday with agreements that fell far short of US demands

for a final, fully verified denuclearisation of North Korea.

The South Korean leader prioritised Seoul's trust-building process with

Pyongyang over denuclearisation, said Shin Beom-cheol, an analyst at the Asan

Institute of Policy Studies.

It's a dangerous gamble, Shin said, adding that Seoul's emollient

approach could facilitate efforts by the North to hold on to its nuclear

weapons.

South Korea will be blamed if Pyongyang does not denuclearise, he said,

adding: It will put cracks in its alliance with Washington and Seoul will

lose credibility.

Moon, who also met the North Korean leader in April and May this year, was

instrumental in brokering the historic Singapore summit between US President

Donald Trump and Kim in June.

Kim backed the denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula after meeting

Trump, but no details were agreed and Washington and Pyongyang have since

sparred over what that means and how it will be achieved.

� 'Sleight of hand' �

At the Pyongyang summit, Kim agreed to permanently close the North's

Tongchang-ri missile engine test site and launch pad under the eyes of

foreign observers.

Analysts quickly dismissed the promise, saying the facility was outdated

and no longer needed as the already existing missiles were produced

elsewhere.

The North Korean leader also offered to take further steps such dismantling

the country's best known nuclear facility in Yongbyon, if the US carried out

corresponding measures.

Pyongyang is believed to have produced its plutonium at Yongbyon, which is

also known to house a uranium enrichment plant.

But Sung-yoon Lee of the Fletcher School at Tufts University noted that

Yongbyon has been mothballed before, only to be reactivated when negotiations

with the US fell through.

The closure of Yongbyon, even were it actually to take place, does not

mean a major concession for Kim has alternate means to building more bombs by

enriching uranium, Lee added.

Kim had already declared the North's nuclear development complete and the

moves were a sleight of hand for ensnaring the US which will enable Kim

to buy more time and money with which to perfect his own nuclear posture,

Lee told AFP.

Rather than shuttering outdated testing facilities, North Korea needed to

provide a comprehensive list of its nuclear assets, said Cha Du-hyeogn of the

Asan Institute.

Right now it's just offering to showcase known facilities and that's

unacceptable, he added.

� Trump-Kim: Round Two �

The US welcomed Kim's latest promise, saying it was ready for immediate

talks aimed at denuclearising the North with Trump quickly tweeting: Very

exciting!

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo whose visit to Pyongyang last month was

abruptly cancelled by Trump � also praised Kim's important commitments and

offered to meet his North Korean counterpart in New York, but analysts noted

that Washington was acting with caution.

The issue is whether Pompeo will return to North Korea but that's not

immediately happening, Cha said.

But maintaining the momentum for denuclearisation talks was vital, said Kim

Heung-kyu, a professor at Ajou University, calling the Pyongyang statement a

very significant achievement.

The new impetus will be a relief for Trump who is embroiled in multiple

scandals ahead of the US midterm elections in November, he noted, saying

developments with North Korea will help divert attention.

Moon probably convinced Kim by telling him that there was not a lot of time

left until Trump's political interest drifted elsewhere, he added. If it

wasn't for this, both Kim and Trump would not have budged.

The biggest challenge may come soon, if the two mercurial leaders reunite

for a second headline-grabbing meeting.

Moon said after his Pyongyang trip that Kim was hoping for another summit

with Trump at an early date.

The real problem is Trump himself is eager for a follow-up meeting with

Kim, said Lee of Tufts University.

That will entail more concessions, he added, such as further relaxation

of sanctions enforcement and normalisation of Kim's image and stature.

Source: Bangladesh Sangbad Sangstha (BSS)