THEIR VIEW: Failure likely between U.S., North Korea

Published on Thursday, 17 May 2018 18:55
Written by Bloomberg View

North Korea’s latest threats haven’t yet doomed the summit planned between Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un - but they underscore a vital point. The White House should prepare itself and the American people for failure.

Comments from one of the North’s top nuclear negotiators have exposed a basic contradiction in the adversaries’ approaches to the June 12 meeting in Singapore. The U.S. wants to set a quick timetable for North Korea to dismantle its nuclear-weapons and ballistic-missile programs - what it calls “complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization.” Kim says he wants to “denuclearize,” but has a much longer timeframe in mind - one that could last decades, until North Korea no longer feels threatened. In the meantime, he expects trade, investment and aid.

None of this should be shocking: The North has merely clarified its opening position. The U.S. could stand to be a bit clearer as well.

North Korea seems to have been provoked by the comments of National Security Adviser John Bolton, who says Kim should ship his entire nuclear arsenal to the U.S., as former Libyan dictator Moammar Ghadafi did, before sanctions are relaxed. Ghadafi’s fate may not recommend this approach to Kim.

The U.S. shouldn’t soften its position - but it needs to speak with one measured voice about what denuclearization means. If the summit fails, maintaining the global campaign of “maximum pressure” against the North won’t be easy.

That means Trump should already be discussing with Chinese President Xi Jinping how far the U.S. is and isn’t willing to go.

If talks fail and other nations aren’t willing to follow Washington’s lead, the U.S. is setting itself up for a bigger failure than a busted summit.

Posted in The Bristol Press, Editorials on Thursday, 17 May 2018 18:55. Updated: Thursday, 17 May 2018 18:57.