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North Korea Declares: “Denuclearization Is Already Gone Out of the Negotiating Table”

North Korea Declares: “Denuclearization Is Already Gone Out of the Negotiating Table”

Daniel R. DePetris

Security, Asia

If one had a smidgeon of hope that North Korea’s denuclearization was still a realistic option, it might have evaporated this weekend.

If one had a smidgeon of hope that North Korea’s denuclearization was still a realistic option, it might have evaporated this weekend.  

Days after a number of senior North Korean officials castigated President Trump for pulling the “Rocket Man” monicker off the shelf, it sure looks like North Korea’s ambassador to the United Nations put the final nail in the denuclearization coffin.

“We do not need to have lengthy talks with the U.S. now and denuclearization is already gone out of the negotiating table,” Kim Song said in a statement before condemning six European powers for calling attention to the North’s 13 rounds of ballistic missile launches. No subtext needed: the Kim regime is no longer willing to sit down face-to-face with the Americans and waste any more time in what it depicts as an undignified process. Trump, it appears, will be but the latest U.S. president to have tried and failed to get the North Koreans to dismantle their nuclear deterrent.

If Trump is shocked at the news, he hasn’t been paying very much attention over the preceding 18 months. Two summits, one meeting at the Demilitarized Zone, one joint declaration, several letters, and happy words about friendship later, North Korea is no closer today to the proverbial denuclearization than it was when Trump swore the oath of office. If anything. Pyongyang has only gotten further away; Stanford University’s Siegfried Hecker, Robert Carlin, and Elliot Serbin have assessed that in 2018, the North generated uranium and plutonium for an additional 5-7 nuclear weapons. The bomb fuel production and short and medium-range missile launches haven’t stopped. Work at the main Yongbyon research facility has been continuing like normal. There have been no caps or rollbacks of the North’s arsenal. On the nuclear front, negotiations have produced nothing other than a suspension of Pyongyang’s nuclear tests—and even this was more of a declaration made unilaterally by Kim Jong-un than the product of the talks themselves.

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