Kim Jong-un, after opening up to the possibility of meetings with China and potentially the United States, has demonstrated more efforts and openness towards negotiations of denuclearization with Washington as he withdrew the demand for American troops to clear out from South Korea this Thursday.
This decision came as a surprise as North Korea has repeatedly demanded that the 28,500 American troops in South Korea to be removed and refused any negotiations regarding its nuclear developments until it was done. The United States, because of this demand, has been reluctant to initiate a deal.
The South’s president, Moon Jae-in, on Thursday, announced the good news that the North has taken back its demand and therefore negotiation efforts and plans can proceed. There have been hopes of having a summit meeting with North Korea and with this change, it appears increasingly possible and promising.
In fact, a plan for the summit meeting has already been put into place and scheduled for April 27, marking one of the most important diplomatic relations between the North and the South. Mr. Moon expressed his confidence in solidifying a deal between the North and the United States: “The North Koreans did not present any conditions that the United States could not accept, such as the withdrawal of American troops of South Korea.” He said that the only request discussed by the North is to end targeted hostilities and to receive security guarantees from the United States.
Mr. Kim, shifting away from his previous stance to nuclearize the country, recently commented that the country would not need nuclear weapons if it was granted “security guarantees”.
Looking back at the history between the North and America, this demand for security has been consistent from North Korean leaders. Mr. Kim’s father and the North’s previous leader, Kim Jong-il, had remarked that “it is desirable to U.S. troops stay as a peacekeeping force in Korea, instead of a hostile force against the North.” In the past, North Korea has not completely rejected the idea of American military presence in South Korea as long as it guarantees the North with security.
Despite this change in condition for the negotiations, experts and analysts have suspected that North Korea might still demand the military presence in South Korea to be reduced or downsized. While there are other lingering suspicions and wariness towards the North’s intentions towards loosening its conditions for denuclearization, Mr. Moon has assured the United States repeatedly that “North Korea is expressing a willingness to denuclearize completely” and that there would be “no big difficulties” in reaching an agreement between the two powers.
Experts and negotiators remain vigilant and wary, as past agreements have fallen apart over a dispute in details about verifications of denuclearization. It will be a tough task to ensure the denuclearization of North Korea and to agree on when to put into place incentive programs like security guarantees and downsizing American military presence in South Korea.
Regardless, Mr. Kim’s decision to withdraw the demand creates great opportunities and outlooks on future negotiations and President Trump has sent Mike Pompeo to the capital of North Korea earlier this month to further discuss and plan meetings between the two leaders.