U.S. President Donald Trump welcomed the reports Tuesday that North Korea started dismantling facilities at Sohae missile launch site and said he believed the remains of U.S. soldiers killed in action during the Korean War would soon be returned to the United States. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the dismantlement of facilities was consistent with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un had made. Pompeo pointed out, however, that the dismantling work was being done without verification, while adding that Washington demanded Pyongyang to allow inspectors at the site when the facilities are dismantled. Pompeo also highlighted the importance of the pressure campaign on North Korea, such as maintaining sanctions.
According to a report from Voice of America, North Korea started dismantling ICBM assembly facility in Pyongsong as well. But this cannot be considered a beginning of the denuclearization process. North Korea is still developing and producing nuclear weapons and has not even started to freeze its nuclear weapons, which is a prerequisite for denuclearization. Furthermore, a dismantling process requires strict verification by experts. Conducting it without the presence of the media and experts is no different from trying to conceal evidence in preparation for future inspection. This is the only first time the North Korean leader is delivering a commitment he made during the June summit with President Trump.
It appears that North Korea is attempting to push the United States to declare the end of war by taking a symbolic measure. But the North’s demanding an end to the Korean War even before starting the denuclearization process is nonsense if it pretends to work toward denuclearization like it is doing the world a kindness. North Korea should at least present a list of its nuclear weapons and facilities that are subject for dismantlement and offer timeline for denuclearization. Only under such circumstances, the denuclearization process could be advanced and the chance of declaring the end of the Korean War would increase.
To be sure, the United States and North Korea may have made considerable progress in their deal behind the curtain, exchanging denuclearization for security guarantee. “We expect to declare the end of the Korean War at an early date,” said a Cheong Wa Dae official Wednesday. But declaring the end of war could work as a catalyst for denuclearization but, at the same time, give North Korea a reason to break its commitment to denuclearization. The Trump administration is also taking a cautious approach since an early declaration of the end of war can be a domestic political burden. There is no reason for the South Korean government to fret about the issue.