John Bolton, President Donald Trump’s national security adviser said on Sunday that the U.S. is looking at the “Libya model” as it seeks to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula. “One thing that Libya did that led us to overcome our skepticism was that they allowed American and British observers into all their nuclear-related sites” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said. “This administration has its eyes wide open. We are going to require steps that demonstrate denuclearization is going to be achieved.”
Famously hawkish Bolton and Pompeo were both appointed shortly after Trump accepted North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s invitation for a bilateral summit. They are de facto a dedicated team of White House officials for negotiations with the North. Trump raised high hopes for his summit with Kim by welcoming the outcome of the inter-Korean summit whereas his advisers are asking for actions than rhetoric. Bolton said: “We want to test North Korea for evidence that they have made a strategic decision to give up its nuclear weapons.” Pompeo said: “We are not going to take words. We are going to look for actions and deeds.”
The Trump administration wants “complete, verifiable, irreversible denuclearization” with North Korea. This explains why it began to add pressure on the North to take irreversible steps to abandon its nuclear arsenal, immediately after Kim agreed to commit to “complete denuclearization” in their joint declaration. To see evidence that the regime’s denuclearization pledge is real, Washington insists that North Korea allow full and complete inspection, even without any notice, of any nuclear weapons program including nuclear related equipment or substances, alleged to have been hidden. Kim reportedly said he would accept intensive inspection by international inspectors. But history tells that North Korea repeatedly broke its previous agreements, so a clear verification process is needed. Back in 2007, Pyongyang exploded the cooling tower at its nuclear plant in Yongbyon to show its willingness to give up its nukes, but later delayed the verification process and resorted to nuclear weapons program. Washington has good reason to ask the North to do more even when Kim announced he would invite experts and journalist to witness the shutdown of his nuclear test site in Punggye-ri.
In the meantime, President Moon Jae-in on Monday called for a rapid ratification of the joint declaration as well as a swift implementation of the summit’s follow-up measures. He said there are things that can be started right away and other things that may take some time until conditions are met, but I cannot help but get the impression that President Moon seems to be in a hurry. Starting today, South Korea’s defense ministry will remove propaganda loudspeakers along the border with North Korea. It is understandable that we take measures in an effort to implement the agreement reached during the inter-Korean summit, but they can also be enforced through mutual consultation. It would better to slow down to keep pace with the North’s enforcing the agreement.