North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in signed a joint statement last night that lays out some initial steps the North is willing to take to prove that they will slowly surrender their nuclear weapons program, but there's a very big catch and more than a few caveats.
The North says they will shut down a missile test site and one of their nuclear facilities, but the big catch is that these steps will depend on the United States taking similar actions according to a statement released by Jae-in.
The North has agreed to permanently shut down an engine test site and missile launch pad in Dongchang-ri, in the presence of experts from the countries concerned. Contingent upon corresponding measures by the United States, the North will also carry out further measures such as the permanent dismantlement of the Yeongbyeon nuclear facility.
We don't know what "corresponding measures" means.
Does that mean Kim Jong-un expects the United States to give up some or all of its nuclear weapons? Does he expect the United State to withdraw from South Korea? Is he going to ask for something the United States obviously can't give? I would ask if he expects the United States to stop holding military exercises, but we've already done that.
Furthermore, what about North Korea's other nuclear facilities and test sites?
If Kim Jong-un's plan is to string us along for as long as possible, this seems consistent with that strategy. I am constantly reminded of the Pentagon's annual assessment from earlier this year that said Kim Jong-un's ultimate goal is to persuade the United States to withdraw from South Korea so he can reunite the peninsula either through force or through a coup.
“Pyongyang portrays nuclear weapons as its most effective way to deter the threat from the United States,” it says. “However, regime propaganda began emphasizing ‘final victory’ over the United States and Republic of Korea in 2017, suggesting Kim Jong Un has larger ambitions, including use of nuclear weapons to deter interference if it attempts to reunify the Korean Peninsula.”
I believe Trump will put withdrawal on the table if that's what Kim Jong-un is asking for.
Kim Jong-un's popularity has soared in South Korea and, for his part, President Moon Jae-in is playing along.