Right after U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo left Pyongyang following the North Korea-U.S. high-level talks on Saturday, the North strongly blasted the United States to hit Washington’s top diplomat in the back. In its foreign ministry spokesperson’s statement, the North claimed, “The United States has only made unilateral robber-like demands by citing CVID (complete verifiable irreversible denuclearization), reporting and verification. We are now facing a grave situation where our commitment to denuclearization that was robust could be on shaky ground.” Meeting with foreign ministers of South Korea and Japan on Sunday, Secretary Pompeo said, “If our demand is like robber, the world is a robber,” noting that the United States and the world will continue sanctions until the North’s complete denuclearization.
Pyongyang’s criticism of Washington indicates that follow-up talks for the North’s denuclearization that have taken place for the first time since the June 12 Pyongyang-Washington summit in Singapore, proceeded amid a highly contentious mood. It also reveals that the Singapore agreement, which only suggested framework accord, was the sloppy first step with loopholes, and that the North and the United States have a serious gap in their stances on the goals, methods and timelines of Pyongyang’s denuclearization. Nonetheless, the U.S. secretary of state said “There was progress” in expressing his expectations for next working-level talks, while Pyongyang also said, “We have trust in President Donald Trump,” which indicates it has no intention to halt negotiations.
Expressing strong objection is a classical method that the North used when negotiations do not proceed as it pleases. When talks start in full swing, Pyongyang would make more demand, and if such demand is not accepted, it outright rejects and boycotts even scheduled meeting and can resort to threatening. This time, the North denied Secretary Pompeo’s meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, which happened in Pompeo’s two previous visits to the North. Pyongyang is thus trying to tame the other party, but if the North reverses its course to conduct this outdated practice again, negotiations will inevitably get protracted for a long time.
In particular, the North made it official its demand to declare the end of the Korean War, saying that “The United States is moving to postpone declaration of the end of the war, which was already agreed, to a distant future.” Moreover, Pyongyang is also demanding new negotiations for the shutdown of its missile test site and return of the remains of U.S. soldiers killed in the Korean War, which it already agreed. After all, the North is thus seeking compensation just for its freezing of nuclear weapons and missiles, just as it did in the past. However, Secretary Pompeo reiterated that lifting sanctions against the North is out of the question without denuclearization, while reemphasizing FFVD (final, fully verified denuclearization).
With the two sides only insisting on their own demands, negotiations seemed to have gone back to square one, but the start of talks can always be a bumpy one. Now that the North’s has revealed its true intention that was previously hidden behind decorative rhetoric, the two sides might have started negotiations in full swing just now. However, if the North withdraws friendly attitude that it displayed in recent months, and thereby chooses to dampen the mood for dialogue by using defiant words, the North should be fully responsible for possible collapse of the talks. The North should keep in mind that it was just weeks ago that Pyongyang threatened Washington with “reconsideration” of summit, only to hurriedly back down in the wake of President Trump’s notice to “cancel” the summit.