Two weeks ahead of the North Korea-U.S. summit in Singapore, the North Korean Workers’ Party Central Committee Vice Chairman Kim Yong Chol arrived in Beijing Tuesday. Kim is expected to head to Washington on Wednesday to sit down face-to-face with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Both working-level and high-level officials of the two countries including Sung Kim, U.S. Ambassador to the Philippines, Choe Son Hui, North Korea’s vice foreign minister, Joe Hagin, White House deputy chief of staff, and Kim Chang Son, director of the North’s State Affairs Commission, are concurrently holding talks in different parts of the world such as Panmunjom and Singapore.
With the preparatory works being rapidly proceeded, the Trump administration has reportedly delayed a new set of sanctions on North Korea indefinitely, which had been set to be announced around Tuesday. According to CNN, President Trump, in spite of his aides’ concerns that there is not much time left, has been strongly urging officials at the White House and the administration to rush the work so that the summit can take place on June 12 as planned.
Meanwhile, the White House noted the “imperative of achieving the complete and permanent dismantlement of North Korea’s nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons and ballistic missile programs,” in a statement Tuesday, even raising the bar from the concept of permanent, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization (PVID) that had been suggested by Pompeo on May 2 but had not been mentioned again since the North rejected the idea. The statement also confirmed an argument made by U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton early this month that North Korea’s biochemical weapons should be subject to disposal. Such moves point to the U.S. administration’s stance that while making all-out efforts to successfully hold the Singapore summit, it will not make a compromise or concession with regard to denuclearization.
When the concept of PVID and biochemical weapons were mentioned early this month, North Korea strongly opposed and turned noncooperative with the United States by cutting working-level contact. North Korea is also likely to assume a firm attitude as its Rodong Sinmun said Tuesday that if the United States sincerely wants talks, joint military drills must end, indicating the allies’ Ulchi Freedom Guardian (UFG) exercise scheduled for August.
All parties concerned should make their utmost efforts to complete preparatory works and create conditions to successfully hold the Kim-Trump meeting in Singapore, but the objective of denuclearization should never be compromised. Whether the expression of “permanent denuclearization” is used or not, what is key to complete denuclearization is to come up with measures that will prevent Pyongyang from regressing to the path of nuclear provocations. Also, the estimated 2,500 to 5,000 tons of biochemical weapons possessed by the North must be completely removed. This is the foundation of complete denuclearization and the starting point of establishing a peace regime on the Korean Peninsula.