CEAC Commentary

October 23, 2018 

Pyongyang Joint Declaration

Colored with Sophism and Uncertainty

By SAITO Naoki

President Moon Jae-in visited North Korea on September 18-20, 2018, and met with Kim Jong-un, Chairman of the Workers’ Party of Korea, at the Inter-Korean Summit Meeting for the third time. The outcome of the meeting was the Pyongyang Joint Declaration signed on Sept. 19th. The Declaration, however, revealed Kim’s denuclearization trick to the world, rather than to be a progress from the Joint Statement between the United States and North Korea agreed on June 12 at the Singapore Summit Meeting, which Kim had agreed on “complete denuclearization.” While President Trump had asked Kim after the summit to report fully on its nuclear-related activities, many conjectured why Kim has not responded to it. Yet the Pyongyang Joint Declaration made it clear of what Kim Jong-un means the denuclearization to be in his terms. The three day visit of President Moon to North Korea might have been the best political show towards the reconciliation of the Korean Peninsula, but the Joint Declaration, colored with sophism and uncertainty, exposed Kim’s true aim.

By quoting the Pyongyang Joint Declaration, it states regarding the denuclearization as “the North will permanently dismantle the Dongchang-ri missile engine test site and launch pad under the observation of experts from relevant countries” and the “North expressed its willingness to continue to take additional measures, such as the permanent dismantlement of the Yeongbyeon nuclear facilities, as the United States takes corresponding measures in accordance with the spirit of the June 12 US-DPRK Joint Statement.” As it can be seen, Kim made it clear on his willingness to permanently dismantle the Yeongbyeon ‘nuclear facilities’, if the U.S. provides something appropriate in return. In response to this statement, President Trump praised Kim for having “accepted the nuclear inspection, and agreed on permanently dismantling the missile engine test site and launch pad under the observation of experts from relevant countries.” Despite such, most of the experts see it very difficult to fulfill the denuclearization process unless North Korea submits the declaration of its entire nuclear activities. Even though North Korea dismantled some of the nuclear or missile related facilities, the Punggye-ri nuclear test site which was dismantled on May 24, and the Dongchang-ri site for example, it will not directly mean that North Korea gave up all the nuclear facilities. Each cases seem to have its own background. The exploding and dismantling of the Punggye-ri nuclear test site was not monitored by outside agency for the inspection, thus it is not clear if it is fully destroyed.

Kim Jong-un is focusing on building missile capability with the mobile launch pad, because the fixed launch sites, such as the one in Dongchang-ri, where the Taepodong-2 and other missiles had been launched from, can be targeted by the U.S. airstrike. The facility in Dongchang-ri is no longer useful as North Korea recognizes the Hwasong-15 missile mounted on transporter erector launcher as the major counter-U.S. capability. On the other hand, the Yeongbyeon facilities are the one known to be the center of the plutonium and high enriched uranium development programs. Most of the plutonium North Korea possesses were produced with the 5,000 kw class graphite-moderated reactor in Yeongbyeon. From those, it is suspected that more than 10 plutonium type nuclear bombs were produced. Meanwhile, a part of the high enriched uranium was produced with the small light-water reactor and centrifugation facilities in Yeongbyeon, of which is suspected to have produced 15 or so of the uranium type nuclear bombs. Kim Jong-un is giving the impression as if abandoning of the ‘nuclear facilities’ in Yeongbyeon is a big concession for them, but it is not clear if the ‘nuclear facilities’ stated in the Joint Declaration means whether those ‘facilities’ or the entire sites in Yeongbyeon. As the Declaration was announced, State Secretary Pompeo made a request that North Korea must dismantle whole facilities in Yeongbyeon under the inspection of the United States and the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Although the test sites and nuclear facilities in North Korea has functioned as a symbol of the development of the nuclear and missiles, they also could be a target whenever the U.S. airstrike is conducted. Considering the facilities built all over the country and the suspected number of the nuclear warheads North Korea may possesses, Yeongbyeon would be just a tip of iceberg. As President Trump had made it clear after the US-North Korea Summit Meeting, Kim would not be able to convince the Trump administration if they do not declare all the nuclear activities. That is, the denuclearization process must go through the steps of declaration, verification, and dismantlement. Still, Kim is trying to be rewarded well enough from the U.S. in exchange of the dismantlement of some of the nuclear facilities as it were reported to outside. It is obviously not enough to call it a decent steps would be taken, considering the facts that 40 to 100 major nuclear related facilities exist in territory-wide in North Korea, and it is seen that it owns 20 to 60 nuclear warheads.

As mentioned above, Kim hinted to abandon the ‘nuclear facilities’ in Yeongbyeon, conditioning the United States to take corresponding measures. Kim Jong-un did not make clear what he thinks of the United States’ corresponding measure would be, but it seems that is a declaration to officially end the Korean War. So the imminent issue for Kim is to end the Korean War in exchange for the dismantlement of ‘nuclear facilities’ in Yeongbyeon, and to sign the peace treaty accordingly. Kim seems to be thinking to get lifting of the economic sanction, assurance of the regime, withdrawal of the United States Forces in South Korea, normalization of the US-North Korea relations, enormous economic assistance and others, in accordance with dismantling the facilities each times. He is hoping to maintain the nuclear capability ranging its neighbors like South Korea and Japan till the end even though the U.S. would reward what Kim seems to want desperately.

Moon Jae-in is someone who supports such denuclearization strategy of Kim Jung-un. Moon said “North Korea will abandon not only the ‘future nuclear’ but also the ‘current ones’” before the Inter-Korean Summit, on Sept. 13th. In Moon’s understandings, the ‘future nuclear’ has been abandoned by the aforementioned dealings with the test sites and missile launch pad, while the ‘current ones’ in Yeongbyeon would be to be given up in correspondence with the US’ measures. Moon evaluated the North’s action as abandoning the ‘future nuclear,’ though it actually has not. As 5 to 9 nuclear warheads had been produced since January 2018, and the production is still considered to be ongoing, not even the ‘current nuclears’ but the ‘future ones’ are being produced. Based on these facts, what Moon said was nothing but playing up to Kim. We can see Moon is doing whatever it takes to make the Peninsula situation eased, which at one point in 2017 it had been in the critical condition. President Moon’s such attitude can be seen from what Kang Kyung-wha, Minister of Foreign Affairs, said on Sept. 21 that the denuclearization process might not take the ordinary steps from declaration, verification to dismantlement, which proves how the Moon administration is facing Kim Jong-un.

Regardless of what Trump himself really thinks of the Pyongyang Joint Declaration, he valued such uncertain Declaration. He has to somewhat take Kim Jung-un’s action towards denuclearization positively, as he is looking the midterm election in the coming November, which he must win. Meanwhile, high ranking officials like Secretary Pompeo is ending up requesting Kim seriously. The meeting of the high ranking officials between U.S. and North Korea is scheduled under such circumstance, it would easily hit the deadlock. The path to the complete denuclearization will not be seen until Kim declares fully of its nuclear activities, and accepts inspection and dismantlement of those. There is no more obvious sophism and insistence than what Kim Jung-un was reportedly told Moon Jae-in that he “wants to denuclearize itself soonest possible, and focus on the economy.” If he wants to denuclearize soonest possible, he has to submit the declaration and the roadmap towards denuclearization as Trump asks. If done so, doubts on Kim’s attitude towards the denuclearization would be somewhat clearer, and the process will be accelerated following the plan. Kim understands this.

It would be South Korea and Japan which continue to be threatened by North’s nuclear if the denuclearization process is to be vague and unclear. Regardless of whether Moon sincerely believes Kim having said of their wish to “complete the denuclearize itself soonest possible, and focus on the economy,” Moon Jae-in who has been making the effort of being a mediator should know this. There is no change that South Korea is the easy target of North Korea. The enormous economic assistance was provided to the North under the Sunshine Policy of Kim Dae-jung in late 1990s, followed by the Peace and Prosperity Policy of Roh Moo-hyun. The enormous economic assistance of South Korea, however, did not improve the life of North Korean people. It was used for the development of North Korean nuclear weapons and missiles, and they gained the capability to attack South Korea instead. This is the obvious prove that the goodwill of Kim Dae-jung and Roh was backfired. It is not clear whether Moon is giving a helping hand to Kim Jong-un knowing such history, or falling-forward Moon is played by Kim. The result would be disastrous if Moon is good willing again despite the clear history of its consequence. Amidst of the reports that the second U.S.-North Korean Summit Meeting will be held in near future, Trump’s responsibility is to make sure Kim Jong-un’s way of denuclearization would not be acceptable. Japan needs to warn from time to time so that Trump would not fall forward to deal with Kim Jong-un, following Moon Jae-in.

(This is an English translation of the article written by SAITO Naoki, Professor, Yamanashi Prefectural University, which originally appeared on the e-forum “Hyakka-Somei (Hundred Ducks in Full Voice)” of CEAC on October 1, 2018.)