An Outlook on the Denuclearization of North Korea
--- What is the Stance of North Korea?---
Lecturer Junya Nishino Professor, Keio University
1. North Korea looks forward to continuing dialogue with the United States
(Chairman Kim Jong-un's policy speech on April 12, 2019)
Chairman Kim Jong-un's policy speech at the First Session of the 14th Supreme People's Assembly of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea on April 12, 2019 elaborated on North Korea's current internal and external policies. Toward the end of his lengthy speech, Chairman Kim took up the US-North Korea relationship and expressed his hope that the bilateral dialogue would continue. His intention to continue the dialogue was made known in the Rodong Sinmun on March 1, the day after the second US-North Korea summit ended in failure. After that North Korea did not issue a clear message about the continuance of the dialogue. Moreover, the First Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Choe Son-hui's criticism of US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and National Security Advisor John Bolton added to the lack of clarity of North Korea's policy on negotiations with the United States. In the above-mentioned policy speech, however, Chairman Kim clarified North Korea's stance. The following are some excerpts from Chairman Kim's remarks related to the United States:
"…in order to implement the June 12 Joint Statement both sides should give up their unilateral terms and seek a constructive solution that meets each other's interests."
"…it is needed above all for the United States to approach us with a new way of calculation after putting aside the current one."
"If the United States proposed holding the third round of summit talks after finding out with a proper attitude a methodology that can be shared with us, we would be willing to try one more time."
"…we will be patient and wait till the end of this year to see whether the United States makes a courageous decision or not…"
"…if it (the United States) sticks to its current political way of calculation, the prospects for problem solving will be bleak and very dangerous."
Noteworthy is that Chairman Kim stressed the need for both the United States and North Korea to "give up their unilateral terms." Yet, he does not forget to add that to this end, the United States should first discard its current way of evaluating. The policy speech suggests the possibility of North Korea making concessions on condition that the United States should first concede. The expression "wait till the end of this year" give the connotation that North Korea has determined to negotiate with the United States, taking into account the political time-tables of the United States and South Korea --- the 2020 Super Tuesday (March 2020) and South Korea's general elections (April 2020).
(North Korea's review of negotiation tactics)
In the aftermath of the failure of negotiations in Hanoi, North Korea is forced to review its negotiating tactics against the United States. However, North Korea's specific negotiating policy is still unclear. Chairman Kim's April 12 policy speech includes the following noteworthy remarks towards the end of the speech:
"…there is no need for me to obsess over the summit talks with the United States out of thirst for the lifting of sanctions."
"I will no longer set my heart on such a trivial issue as lifting sanctions by the hostile forces…"
These remarks seem to suggest two things. First, it is apparent that North Korea tries to deny its admission at the Hanoi summit that it suffers from sanctions and wants core parts of the sanctions to be lifted. Second, North Korea is hinting at another approach instead of suddenly calling for the lifting of sanctions. Needless to say, North Korea obviously puts the emphasis on the first point.
Immediately after the Hanoi summit --- in the early in the morning of March 1, North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho held a press conference and" explained as follows about North Korea's proposal:
(1) If the United States lifts part of UN sanctions harming the civilian economy and the livelihoods of the North Korean people, North Korea will permanently and completely dismantle all the nuclear material production facilities in the Nyongbyon area, including plutonium and uranium, in the presence of US experts and joint work of technicians from both countries.
(2) The lifting of part of UN sanctions should signify the lifting of five out of 11 sanctions adopted in 2016 and 2017 under United Nations Security Council resolutions.
(3) This proposal should be considered the biggest denuclearization measure North Korea could take at the present stage when taking into consideration the current level of confidence between North Korea and the United States.
Meanwhile, a Stanford University lecture by the US Special Representative for North Korea Stephen Biegun on January 31 revealed that at the time of the fourth visit of US Secretary of State Pompeo to Pyongyang on October 7, 2018, Chairman Kim promised the following:
(1) The invitation of US experts to ensure the complete dismantlement of Punggye-ri nuclear test site.
(2) The dismantlement and destruction of North Korea's plutonium and uranium enrichment facilities.
Regarding the dismantlement and destruction of North Korea's plutonium and uranium enrichment facilities, Biegun indicated his perception that it includes similar facilities other than those in Nyongbyon. In light of the Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho's remarks at the March 1 press conference, Chairman Kim seemingly thought only of the dismantlement and destruction of plutonium and uranium enrichment facilities in the Nyongbyon area.
In conformity with Chairman Kim's promises to Secretary of State Pompeo, North Korea proposed at the Hanoi summit the lifting of five UN sanctions in exchange for the disposal of facilities in the Nyongbyon area. Since this bargain proposed by North Korea was not accepted by the United States, North Korea was forced to work out a new proposal.
(North Korea's readjustment of its negotiating team
At Present North Korea seems to be working on the necessary readjustment of its negotiating team.
(1) Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho and the First Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Choe Son-hui have assumed a greater role. In particular, Choe Son-hui is a conspicuous figure, serving also as a member of the State Affairs Commission. The new line-up of the State Affairs Commission members gives an impression that diplomacy is given particular priority in state politics.
(2) According to a report submitted to the National Assembly by the National Intelligence Service of South Korea, it seems that the head of the United Front Department Kim Yong-chol has been replaced by Jang Kum-chol. In addition, Kim Hyok Chol, the counterpart of the US Special Representative for North Korea Stephen Biegun in practical negotiations for the Hanoi summit, has been moved from the State Affairs Commission to be reinstated in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
(3) The First Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Choe Son-hui has criticized US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and National Security Advisor John Bolton and has demanded the replacement of Pompeo. Her intention seems to be to resume negotiations again with new US counterparts. While criticizing Pompeo and Bolton, she emphasizes the present good relationship between the leaders of the two countries. North Korea is supposed to prefer a "top-down" approach and "direct negotiations" between the two leaders.
2. Necessary preparedness and preparations against prolonged economic sanctions
From the US negotiation stance at the Hanoi summit, North Korea is increasingly aware that preparedness and preparations against prolonged economic sanctions are necessary. This perception is reflected in Chairman Kim's remarks at the 4th Plenary Meeting of the 7th Central Committee of the Workers' Party of Korea on April 10 and his policy speech on April 12 as well.
In his April 10 Plenary Meeting remarks, Chairman Kim reiterated "self-reliance." And he "underscored the need to more vigorously advance socialist construction … under the uplifted banner of self-reliance, so as to deal a telling blow to the hostile forces who go with bloodshot eyes miscalculating that sanctions can bring the DPRK to its knees."
This statement should not be interpreted to call for inflicting damage on the hostile forces by use of "physical force" as described in some media reports, but, rather, to call for a manifestation of the intent not to succumb to sanctions pressure.
Similar remarks were repeated in the April 12 policy speech, which admits that "the confrontation between our country and the United States is bound to be drawn out and the hostile forces' sanctions will persist", but insists that "we must frustrate the hostile forces' sanctions on the strength of self-sufficiency and self-reliance." These remarks are based on the April 10 Plenary Meeting remarks.
In this connection, it is noteworthy that when he inspected the construction site in the Wonsan-Kalma Coastal Tourist Area on April 6, Chairman Kim gave the instruction for the prolongation of the construction period until April next year. Such instructions are unusual for a North Korean supreme leader. Moreover, this tourist area project is said to be implemented under the encouragement of Chairman Kim.
In addition, the fact that the April 12 policy speech did not touch on the "five-year strategy for national economic development" mentioned in Chairman Kim's New Year address suggests that North Korea has been obliged to correct the speed of national economic construction due to the failure of the Hanoi summit.
3. North Korea's efforts to find a breakthrough and "hedging"
When it comes to the issue of how North Korea will specifically deal with the present situation, there may be no decisive change in its policy to invigorate diplomatic efforts indicated by Chairman Kim's New Year address. The failure of the Hanoi summit has resulted in the demand by North Korea for increased diplomatic efforts than before, leading to the appointment of diplomatic officials to important positions. Basically, top priority will be given to negotiations with the United States, but simultaneously North Korea will further diplomatic relations with countries other than the United States to secure "hedging" against the prolongation of the current stalemate in negotiations.
The important countries for North Korea in this context are primarily China, then Russia, followed by South Korea and Japan. Currently, North Korea should give top priority to overcoming the stalemate with the United States, but a shift in due course to multilateral talks cannot be denied, given that President Vladimir Putin proposed the resumption of the six-party talks when Chairman Kim visited Russia in April this year. As stated in the April 12 policy speech, North Korea will prioritize negotiations with the United States until at least the end of this year.
In parallel with its diplomatic efforts, North Korea will continue low-level provocations, verbal and military, to obtain concession from the United States. Since the conclusion of the Hanoi summit, North Korea has engaged in such moves to provoke the United States and the international community, as the reconstruction of the Tongchang-ri missile test site; the construction of a submarine in Sinpo, and uranium enrichment activity in the Nyongbyon area. On May 4, the test launch of a new "tactical guided weapon" was also conducted. If North Korea launched a ballistic missile, it would be a violation of the UN Security Council resolution. North Korea will continue provocations without crossing the line, under the scrupulous watch of the United States, Japan and South Korea.
Meanwhile, the April 12 political speech states, "We should ... reenergize the external economic work." Specifically, "The external economic sector should conduct external economic cooperation, technical exchanges and trading activities in a multifarious, proactive and tactical way." Thus, North Korea can be considered to aim at reducing excessive dependence on China and at diversifying its external economic relations. "The establishment of a new bilateral (US-North Korea) relationship" sought by North Korea may be understood in this context.
While its relationship with the United States is deadlocked, North Korea must have aimed, ultimately in vain, to obtain economic support from Russia at the Russia-North Korea summit in Vladivostok on April 25. All that North Korea gained from Russia was her pledge of political support for a "step-by-step, simultaneous" denuclearization process. In Russia, there were 30,000 to 40,000 North Korean laborers, half of whom have been repatriated in accordance with a UN Security Council resolution. Some 15,000 North Korean workers are alleged to still remain in Russia. According to the same resolution, they will also have to return home by the end of this year. There may be a possibility that Russia will demonstrate flexibility to North Korea on this question, which we need to monitor.
What from now on will become important for North Korea is its relationship with China. Chairman Kim has already paid his fourth visit to China on January 8 this year. Whether or not Xi Jinping will visit North Korea by the end of this year is now attracting attention. Suffering from severe economic sanctions, North Korea has to painfully admit that ultimately China is the most economically dependable partner.
The April 12 policy speech calls South Korea "a meddlesome mediator," and strongly criticizes it saying, "(The South Korean authorities should) be a responsible party that defends the interests of the nation." Until the Singapore summit held in June last year, South Korea had been an intermediary between North Korea and the United States, but now North Korea can directly contact the United States. What North Korea expects from South Korea would be economic support. However, it is South Korea's consistent position that economic sanctions by the UN Security Council resolution make it difficult for the South to provide economic support to the North. At this moment there is no prospect for the resumption of the inter-Korean railway connection project, the Kaesong industrial complex, or Mount Kumgang tourism. Still, South Korea plans to provide humanitarian support to North Korea, while the importance of South Korea to the North is decreasing. Although President Moon Jae-in looks forward to his fourth meeting with Chairman Kim, it is doubtful whether North Korea will accept a North-South Korean summit without a pledge of economic support from the South.
Regarding the possibility of the Japan-North Korea summit, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has, since the conclusion of the Singapore summit in June last year, issued positive messages to the effect that it is time for him to meet with Chairman Kim. Earlier, in his UN General Assembly speech in September last year, Prime Minister Abe said, "As long as we hold a meeting, the meeting must contribute to the resolution of the abduction issue." In January this year, however, in his policy speech, he adopted a more positive expression, "Towards the resolutions of the nuclear and missile issues, and most importantly, the abductions issue, we will take bold actions without missing any single opportunity, by breaking the shell of mutual distrust, and with myself meeting face-to-face with Chairman Kim Jong-un." Furthermore, in a newspaper interview in early May this year, he stressed, "I, myself, have to meet face-to-face with Chairman Kim Jong-un, and meet with him without attaching any conditions." Prime Minister Abe is now groping for the possibility of the Japan-North Korea summit with the cooperation of President Trump, as inferable from their talks at the Japan-US summit meeting in April this year.
To conclude, North Korea will abide by the major direction enunciated in Chairman Kim's New Year address until this year's end --- regardless of the failure of the Hanoi summit. The address is specific as to the four "Nos" regarding nuclear weapons --- "No Production," "No Tests," "No Proliferation," and "No Use" --- and proactive diplomacy. After the Hanoi summit, it was made clear that North Korea's economic construction will not progress significantly. North Korea will be obliged to revise its economic plan.
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- August 2017: "The Shocks that shook the Transatlantic World and their Implication for Japan's Foreign Policy" written by HOSOYA, Yuichi, Professor, Keio University
- August 2017: "Does Economic Interdependence not Encourage Collaboration? ―Thinking Japan-China Relations from an Economic Perspective―" written by Takashi SEKIYAMA, Ph.D., Toyo University
- July 2017: Proposal article "The Trump Administration's Impact on the Cross-Strait Relations" written by Yasuhiro Matsuda, Ph.D.
- June 2017: Proposal article "The outlook for the relationship between two great powers and implications for Japanese diplomacy" written by Professor Shin Kawashima
- May 2017: (Emergency Proposal) Facing the Inconvenient Truth: Re-examining Policy for Peace and Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula (Chief author, Masao Okonogi)
- March 2017: "Economic Influences of the Trump Administration" written by Professor Motoshige Ito
- February, 2017: Proposal article "Trump's Foreign and Security Policy - Unpredictable President, Realistic Secretaries - " written by Mr. Tsuneo Watanabe is posted on the website of SSDP.
- December, 2016: Proposal article "Reconsidering North Korea Policy: How to Deal with a Nuclear Armed Divided States" written by Professor Masao Okonogi is posted on the website of SSDP.
- March 2022, A remembrance seminar "Remembering Professor Ezra Vogel" held on January 17, 2022
- March 2021, Japan-ROK Parliamentary Dialogue -Japan-ROK Cooperation in the Era of US-China Competition- held on March 11, 2021
- December 2020: The report of the Japan-ROK Future Dialogue held on November 21 to discuss "Japan-ROK Cooperation in the Post-Covid-19 Era
- October 2020: "Responses to COVID-19 and Agendas for the Post-COVID-19 Era", A Brief Overview of the Japan-Korea Experts Dialogue held on July 29,30, 2020
- October 2020: "The China-Taiwan Confrontation over Corona Response and Taiwan's Security" written by Makoto Ogata, Former Chief of the Japan-Taiwan Exchange Association in Taipei
- May 2020: "Rivalries in the Middle East in New Security Dynamics", Written by Sayed Ghoneim, Major General (retired) of the Egyptian Armed Forces, Chairman, Institute for Global Security & Defence Affairs
- March 2020: The Japan-South Korea Relationship in a Cul-de-Sac--- Where is an Exit ? Masao Okonogi Professor Emeritus, Keio Universit
- December 2019: The Hong Kong Upheaval and the Future of Cross-Straits Relations－The 2019 Japan-Taiwan Strategic Dialogue Report OGATA, Makoto Former Chief of the Japan-Taiwan Exchange Association in Taipei
- August 2019: Report; 2019 FUTURE CONSENSUS DIALOGUE --Sustainable Prosperity and Future of Korea-U.S.-Japan Cooperation-- By Future Consensus Institute (Yeosijae)
- June 2019: Report on India – Japan Security Dialogue 2019 by Ms. Vindu Mai Chotani, Ph.D Student, The University of Tokyo
June 2019: Four papers on Japan-India Cooperation submitted to India-Japan Security Dialogue 2019
Japan's Rationale for a Free and Open Indo-Pacific Vision
Tsuneo Watanabe, Senior Fellow, The Sasakawa Peace Foundation
The Significance and Possibilities of India-Japan Cooperation in the Concept of the Indo-Pacific
Toru ITO Associate Professor, National Defense Academy of Japan
Japan-India Defense Cooperation in the Indo-Pacific Context - Operationalizing the Security Aspect of the Indo-Pacific Vision –
Hideshi Tokuchi, Senior Fellow, National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies (GRIPS)
India-US-Japan Defense Cooperation: What's next?
Dr. Satoru Nagao, Hudson Institute
- Japan's Rationale for a Free and Open Indo-Pacific Vision
- November 2018: "The Present State of the Japanese Economy and Policy Issues" lectured by Motoshige Itoh, Professor Emeritus at the University of Tokyo.
- November 2018: "Expanding Social Security Expenses and Fiscal Reforms" lectured by Kazumasa Oguro, Professor at Hosei University.
- September 2018: "Taiwan Identity and Cross-Strait Relations and Trump's Taiwan Policy and the Future of Taiwan-US Relations-Discussion at The Second Japan-Taiwan Strategic Dialogue (June 21, 2018, Taipei)-" written by OGATA, Makoto
- September 2018: "Japan-Taiwan Dialogue 2018 Minutes", 21st June 2018, Taipei, Taiwan.
- July 2018: Report on The Second Japan – Philippines Strategic Dialogue prepared by Ms. Vindu Mai Chotani, Ph.D. Student, Graduate School of Public Policy, Tokyo University.
- May 2018: "Civilian Control "at Crisis"? – Perhaps Not, for the Case of the Field Sit-reps from SDF's South Sudan Mission" reported by Ippeita Nishida, Research Fellow, the Sasakawa Peace Foundation
- January 2018: "Fukushima, Genki？Project－Young Taiwanese volunteers introduce the facts on Fukushima's revival through documentary films－" reported by OGATA, Makoto, Former Chief of the Japan-Taiwan Exchange Association in Taipei
- December 2017: "Commemorating a Quarter Century of Dispatches of the JSDF's PKO Units: Challenges and Possibilities in the Post South Sudan" written by Takayuki Shoji, Lecturer, Nihon University
- November 2017: "19th CCP National Congress" written by Mr. Bonji Ohara, Senior Research Fellow, the Sasakawa Peace Fondation
- October 2017: "What is Japan's Role in the Indo-China border conflict?" written by Dr. NGAO,Satoru, Research Fellow, Institute for Future Engineering
- July 2017: "Overview of the Current Situation in Taiwan-" the Naturally Independent Generation" will affect the Taiwan"s politics-" written by Makoto Ogata MGE.(Ret.)
- June 2017: "Japan-U.S. Economic Dialogue" written by Mr.Takaaki Asano
- March 2017: "The Japan-Philippines Strategic Dialogue" written by Mr. Hideshi Tokuchi
- February, 2017: Current topic "The Importance of Japan's Security Role Under Trump" written by Dr. Satoru Nagao is posted on the SSDP website.
- December, 2016: Current topic "Widening Security Task: Will SDF do the Job?" written by Mr. Ippeita Nishida is posted on the SSDP website.
- January 2023, Research Jounal "Security Studies (vol 4 no 4)" - Defending Our Country – Defense Policy in a "New Cold War Era - was published.
- October 2022, Research Jounal "Security Studies (vol 4 no 3)" - Xi Jinping's China - Politics, Economy, Society and Diplomacy - was published.
- Jun 2022, Research Jounal "Security Studies (vol 4 no 2)" -The Russia-Ukraine War and Its Global Impact- was published.
- March 2022, Research Jounal "Security Studies (vol 4 no 1)"-What is Economic Security?- was published.
- December 2021, Research Jounal "Security Studies (vol 3 no 4)"-Korean Peninsula Situation- was published.
- September 2021, A research journal "Security Studies vol03 no03" -Asia's Security II- (English edition)
- June 2021, A research journal "Security Studies vol03 no02" -Asia's Security I- (English edition)
- March 2021: Research journal "Security Studies (vol3 no1) "- US Foreign Policy in the Biden Administration / The 2020 US Presidential Election and American Democracy -(English edition)
- December 2020: A research journal "Security Studies (vol2 no4) "- Normalize Japan-South Korea Relations trough Dialogues -(English edition)
- September 2020: A research journal "Security Studies (vol2 no3) "-The Novel Coronavirus and Security-(English edition)
- July 2020: A research journal "Security Studies (vol2 no2) - Middle East Situation and Japan's Security - " (English edition) was published
- May 2020: A research journal "Security Studies (vol2 no1) - Cyber, Space, Environment and Security - " March 2020 (English edition)
- February 2020, "A research journal "Security Studies (vol1 no4) " (English edition)"
- September 2019: A research journal "Security Studies (vol1 no3) " (English edition)
- August 2019: Korea-Japan Joint Seminar: FUTURE CONSENSUS DIALOGUE
- April 2019: "Security Studies (vol1 no2) April 2019"
- March 2019: A research journal "Security Studies vol1 no01" just published
- February 2019: The Denuclearization of North Korea and the Takeshima Issue
- December 2018: Former Vice Defense Minister Masahiro Akiyama's Memoirs (An Ad)
- November 2018: Participation in the Future Consensus Forum held in Beijing
- September 2018: "2018 Indo-Pacific Security Dialogue" reported by Masahiro Akiyama
- 2017 December: "The Butterfly Project-A possibility of showing a solution to the North Korea problem-"
- October 2017: Campaign on the problems with North Korea
- August 2017: A New Containment Policy Strategy
- June 2017: Korean peninsla
- March 2017: President Duterte
- February, 2017: Kazakhstan
- November, 2016: Participated in Astana Club 2016 held in Kazakhstan on November 14- 16, 2016.