By Javad Heirannia

How North Korea’s denuclearization is defined is important

April 30, 2018 - 10:7

TEHRAN – Richard Nephew, who served as the lead sanctions expert for the U.S. team negotiating with Iran, is of the opinion that “the biggest difference is that the North feels confident in its nuclear weapons program, making it possible for them to enter into these talks, and the South is not confident in the future of its alliance with the United States (in no small part due to Trump).”

The fellow at the Center on Global Energy Policy at Columbia University, says, “There could be shifts in North Korea's relationships with South Korea (obviously) and with China, especially if this results in sanctions being removed so that North Korea could be treated more "normally".”

Following is the text of the interview:

Q: North and South Korean leaders held a historic summit on Friday. What led to such a breakthrough?

A: I think it is because of a combination of fear, optimism, and confidence. Certainly, there is common fear that the situation could have gotten out of hand, resulting in a war that neither side truly wants.  And, I think that there is optimism that now this time could be different.
But, I think the biggest difference is that the North feels confident in its nuclear weapons program, making it possible for them to enter into these talks, and the South is not confident in the future of its alliance with the United States (in no small part due to Trump).  So, the South is making an attempt at a resolution -- which its population wants -- while it thinks it may be an opportune moment.

Q: The leaders of North and South Korea also pledged to "cease all hostile acts" amid a "new era of peace" after the historic summit. Kim Jong-un agrees to denuclearization of Korean Peninsula. Can they materialize these goals?

A: They can, but definitions will play an important role here.  Denuclearization, for one, could mean no nuclear weapons or it could mean no facilities that could produce them.  But, how that question is answered will determine how difficult it is to get to an agreement.

Q: Trump gave the deal a cautious welcome, tweeting that "time will tell" if it leads to an end to nuclear missile tests. "The United States, and all of its GREAT people, should be very proud of what is now taking place," he said. What will be the impact of this historic summit on Trump’s decision on the JCPOA?

A: I think people outside of the U.S. government think about this a lot more than people inside the government.  Ultimately, I think there may be no impact at all.

Q: What will be the impact of this summit on East Asia’s security order (impact on China-North Korea relations)?

A: From this Summit?  Nothing much.  Summits have happened before.

From a resolution of this crisis?  There could be profound shifts in U.S. forces in the region.  There could be shifts in North Korea's relationships with South Korea (obviously) and with China, especially if this results in sanctions being removed so that North Korea could be treated more "normally."
But, there are many, many, many big issues to be sorted out before we get to that stage.

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