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PSPD  l  People's Solidarity for Participatory Democracy

  • Peace/Disarmament
  • 2019.02.12
  • 642

Watch Report No.5     

Kim Jong-Un’s “New Year Address” Set the Tone for Negotiations and US Policy is Shifting toward Phased, Simultaneous and Parallel Denuclearization Measures

 

Feb. 12, 2019

 

 

Stagnant water has started running. We conclude that this change can be largely attributed to the impact of Kim Jong-Un’s 2019 “New Year Address.”

 

On February 5, during his State of the Union address, US President Trump announced that Chairman Kim and he would meet again on February 27 and 28 in Vietnam for their second summit. And on February 8, three days after the address, President Trump announced in a tweet would take place in Hanoi, Vietnam.

 

Since the agreement made at the first summit in Singapore last June, negotiations between the US and the DPRK on the implementation of the agreement have remained deadlocked. It was widely agreed that unless there was a concrete commitment to break the deadlock and advance implementation of the initial agreement, holding a second summit would be useless. Therefore, the decision to hold a second summit means that the DPRK, and especially the US, currently consider that a second summit could possibly produce a significant agreement between the parties.

 

To understand the process that led to this decision, it is important to carefully read two speeches. One is a “New Year Address” by Chairman of the Workers’ Party of Korea, Kim Jong-Un [1], and the other consists of remarks on the DPRK at Stanford University by Stephen Biegun, US State Department Special Representative for North Korea Policy [2], delivered on January 31, 2019.

 

 On January 1, 2019, Chairman of the Workers’ Party of Korea, Kim Jong-Un, delivered the annual “New Year Address.” Many observers paid attention as to how the address would evaluate last year’s rapid developments toward the easing of tensions on the Korean Peninsula and discussions toward denuclearization, and what this year’s policy would be. The reason for the close attention to Kim’s address was that those who hoped for improvement in the current situation were concerned that there might be a change in the DPRK’s policy. And, those who were skeptical about any improvement in the situation under the current conditions were expecting signs of aggravation with the deadlock. They considered that this might be a possibility because since last April, while inter-Korean relations had been steadily improving, discussions between the US and the DPRK had remained deadlocked and the DPRK had been becoming increasingly dissatisfied as it saw the deadlock had been caused by US unilateral foreign policy. At the end of last year, refraining from directly criticizing US President Trump, the DPRK had escalated criticism to the point that the DPRK state-run media criticized US Secretary of State Pompeo by name. [3] Accordingly, given these circumstances, no one could deny the possibility that Chairman Kim Jong-Un’s “New Year Address” would include a hard line stance against the US or make difficult demands on South Korea.

 

Under these circumstances, in his “New Year Address,” Chairman Kim Jong-Un praised the changes in 2018 and communicated to the DPRK people his will to prioritize economic development and a clear policy to improve US and DPRK relations, making advances toward denuclearization. Considering that the “New Year Address” is basically a message directed to the DPRK people, the significance of the fact that Kim Jong-Un mentions the joint statement at the Singapore summit between the US and the DPRK is vitally important. He stated,

 

“It is the invariable stand of our Party and the government of our Republic and my firm will to … build a lasting and durable peace regime and advance towards complete denuclearization.

Accordingly, we declared at home and abroad that we would neither make and test nuclear weapons any longer nor use and proliferate them, and we have taken various practical measures…

We have no intention to be obsessed with and keep up the unsavoury past relationship between the two countries, but are ready to fix it as early as possible and work to forge a new relationship in line with the aspirations of the two peoples and the requirements of the developing times.”

 

Kim Jong-Un even declared to the DPRK people in his policy that “we would not make nuclear weapons any longer,” which had never been expressed openly before. Recalling that last year’s “New Year Address” directed “to mass-produce nuclear warheads and ballistic missiles and deploy them for action,” this year’s “New Year Address” can be considered to have announced a dramatic policy change to the DPRK people.

 

On the other hand, a large number of media focused on the following sentence in the “New Year Address,” a DPRK’s warning message to the US.

 

“But if the United States does not keep the promise … and out of miscalculation of our people's patience, it attempts to unilaterally enforce something upon us and persists in imposing sanctions and pressure against our Republic, we may be compelled to find a new way for defending the sovereignty of the country and the supreme interests of the state and for achieving peace and stability of the Korean peninsula.”

 

It is understandable why the overseas media showed interest in this sentence. However, the most important message which should be read in the “New Year Address” is not this one. The critical message is that the DPRK positively evaluated the consequences of changes during the past year as an achievement and announced its invariable stand that, based on that achievement, the DPRK would advance toward improvement in US and DPRK relations and denuclearization this year.

 

That message must have provided a significant basis for the US government to advance US-DPRK relations.

 

On January 18, 2019, Kim Yong-Chol, vice chairman of the Workers’ Party of Korea, carrying a letter from Kim Jong-Un to US President Trump, visited Washington, DC and met with President Trump. At this time, Kim Yong-Chol was accompanied by North Korea’s former ambassador to Spain, Kim Hyok Chol, who would lead working-level talks. Being the DPRK’s number two figure, Kim Yong-Chol’s visit to Washington, DC reminds us of the vice chairman of the National Defense Commission Jo Myong-Rok’s historic visit to the US on behalf of Kim Jong-Il in October 2000 to meet with US President Clinton. At that time, following Jo’s visit, US Secretary of State Albright’s historic visit to Pyongyang and meeting with Chairman Kim Jong-Il took place.

 

Following the talks between President Trump and Kim Yong-Chol, US-DPRK relations progressed quickly. Although US Secretary of State Pompeo appointed Stephan Biegun as US State Department Special Representative for North Korea Policy on August 2018, no working-level talks with DPRK counterparts had taken place. However, the next day following talks between Kim Yong-Choi and President Trump, three days of working-level talks took place in Stockholm, with the attendees remaining on the premises of their hotel and an international conference venue for the duration. Then, the second summit’s schedule was announced, as described at the beginning of this report.

 

To understand the changes since January 18, Biegun’s remarks about the DPRK at Stanford University are vitally important. After the remarks, a question-and-answer session with Robert Carlin, a veteran expert on North Korea and former Chief of the Northeast Asia Division in the Bureau of Intelligence and Research at the State Department under the Clinton administration, was held. Carlin’s pointed questions covered many valuable topics.

 

The vitally important point clearly expressed in Biegun’s remarks is that the US is prepared to pursue simultaneous, parallel and phased measures that the DPRK had been calling for.  Biegun stated as follows:

 

“For our part, we have communicated to our North Korean counterparts that we are prepared to pursue – simultaneously and in parallel – all of the commitments our two leaders made in their joint statement at Singapore last summer.”

 

“Chairman Kim qualified next steps on North Korea’s plutonium and uranium enrichment facilities upon the United States taking corresponding measures. Exactly what these measures are is a matter I plan to discuss with my North Korean counterpart during our next set of meetings. From our side, we are prepared to discuss many actions that could help build trust between our two countries and advance further progress in parallel on the Singapore summit objectives of transforming relations, establishing a permanent peace regime on the peninsula, and complete denuclearization.” [2]

 

This represents a substantial change and indicates progress in US foreign policy. The US demand on the DPRK to submit a complete list of its nuclear program, which attracted a lot of attention from the media at first, has now been postponed to become an issue to be addressed at later stages of negotiations.

 

“Before the process of denuclearization can be final, we must also have a complete understanding of the full extent of the North Korean weapons of mass destruction missile programs. We will get that at some point through a comprehensive declaration.” [2]

 

Additionally, Biegun strongly implied that intermediate measures would include issues related to putting an end to the Korean War.

 

“President Trump is ready to end this war. … We are not seeking to topple the North Korean regime. We need to advance our diplomacy alongside our plans for denuclearization in a manner that sends that message clearly to North Korea as well. We are ready for a different future. It’s bigger than denuclearization, while it stands on the foundation of denuclearization, but that’s the opportunity we have and those are the discussions we will be having with the North Koreans.” [2]

 

Another our point of interest is the relation between this new policy and the US approach of putting pressure through sanctions, which the US has stressed to date. In this regard, Biegun implied changes but didn’t convey clear message.

 

“We will sustain the pressure campaign, at the same time, we are trying to advance the diplomatic campaign, and we have to find the right balance between those two. Areas like cultural exchanges or people-to-people initiatives that you (Carlin) described seem to me a very obvious place where we could begin to make progress in that environment.” [2]

 

In connection with that, we would like to take note of the fact as well that during rapid changes after the talks between President Trump and Kim Yong-Chol, remarks by John Bolton, a super-hawk national security advisor to the US President, have indicated a change. On January 25, during a private interview with the “Washington Times,” Bolton stated as follows regarding the sanctions:

 

“What we need from North Korea is a significant sign of a strategic decision to give up nuclear weapons and it is when we get that denuclearization that the President can begin to take the sanctions off.” [4]

 

It might be possible to interpret that the DPRK has already made a strategic decision to “give up nuclear weapons” and engaged in negotiations with the US at this time, and such an interpretation is left to the subjective judgment by the Trump administration. The phrase “begin to take the sanctions off” is considered to imply taking the sanctions off in a phased manner. (Hiromichi UMEBAYASHI and Kana HIRAI)

 

------------------------------------------

[1] English full text is available in the following link.

http://www.kcna.kp/kcna.user.home.retrieveHomeInfoList.kcmsf

[2] U.S. Department of State, "Remarks on DPRK at Stanford University," January 31, 2019

https://www.state.gov/p/eap/rls/rm/2019/01/288702.htm

 (Robert Carlin’s questions and Stephen Biegun’s answers are included as well as Biegun’s remarks)

[3] For instance, an article from KCNA ”Press Statement of Policy Research Director of Institute for American Studies, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the DPRK,” December 16, 2018

 http://www.kcna.co.jp/index-e.htm  Search for the article from date.

[4] Tim Constantine, “John Bolton explains Trump's strategy on North Korea, China trade,” The Washington Times, January 25, 2019

https://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2019/jan/25/john-bolton-explains-trumps-strategy-on-north-kore/

 

Korean Version>>

 


 

Citizens’ Watch on the Implementation of Korean Denuclearization Agreements

 

Outline

In the Panmunjom Declaration at the 2018 April 27 Inter-Korean summit, the Republic of Korea (ROK, South Korea) and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK, North Korea) agreed to cooperate to alleviate military tension, eliminate the danger of war and establish a permanent peace regime including a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula. In the joint statement at the 2018 June 12 Singapore Summit between the United States and the DPRK, the two states set forth their common goal to establish new US-DPRK relationship for peace and prosperity and to build a lasting and stable peace regime on the Korean Peninsula. In this regard, the US has committed to providing security guarantees to the DPRK, and the DPRK has committed to the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

 

These two summit agreements have dramatically changed the international landscape of Northeast Asia, which was on the brink of a possible nuclear war in 2017. Now we witness ongoing dialogue between North and South Korea and between the US and the DPRK. This is a historic change. Even after two significant turning points in modern history - the end of World War II and the end of the Cold War - challenging relationships among regional states persist to this day in Northeast Asia. Disputes over damages in the DPRK caused by Japanese colonization have remained officially unsettled for more than 70 years. The Korean War has not officially ended more than 65 years after the 1953 ceasefire agreement.

 

Now is a golden opportunity to overcome these historical legacies and we want to make the best use of this favorable moment.  To that end, we believe patient diplomatic efforts by concerned states to faithfully implement the two summit agreements are vitally important to reverse the long-standing mutual distrust among states.

 

In this process of diplomatic efforts, we believe the roles of civil society, especially in Japan, South Korea, and the US, are vitally important. They need to appeal to their democratically elected governments about the importance of this opportunity and the necessity to gain an accurate understanding of previous negotiations concerning the Korean Peninsula denuclearization and to draw lessons from them. Also, all civil society constituents, including legislators, municipal leaders, and journalists, have to work diligently to eradicate distrust and biases deeply rooted in civil society.

 

Based upon such considerations, the Peace Depot Inc. has launched this project to keep close watch on the diplomatic process to realize the implementation of the summit agreements. While it seems possible to organize a joint project among NGOs in Japan, South Korea, and the US, we have decided to adopt a project plan in which citizens in each country appeal to their own governments and civil society and closely communicate with each other. This approach would be more focused and effective in consideration of the differences in the political and historical backgrounds of each civil society. Most especially, in Japan as an atomic-bombed state, the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula is closely linked to Japan’s inherited mission to make Japan genuinely nuclear weapon-free and to establish a Northeast Asia Nuclear Weapon-Free Zone. We will closely cooperate with NGO colleagues working for the same cause in South Korea and the US.

 

Activities

1. Publication of “Watch Report”

- first in Japanese, then shortly after, in Korean and English

- irregular publication, roughly once every three weeks with several pages on A4 size paper

- published in a free-access blog website, as well as through a mail-magazine sent to subscribed names

2. Visits and Representations to related Governmental Offices, including the Foreign Ministry of Japan

3. Organizing occasional public seminars

4. Organizing international workshops and symposiums in cooperation with US and ROK NGOs

 

Team and Staffing

1. Project Team:

Takuya MORIYAMA, Kana HIRAI, Hiromichi UMEBAYASHI*, Ichiro YUASA, Hajime MAEKAWA, Miho ASANO, Maria KIM (ROK), Patti WILLIS (Canada)  *inaugural team leader

2. In Cooperation With:

Korea: People’s Solidarity for Participatory Democracy (PSPD), Peace Network

USA: Peace Action

Western States Legal Foundation

Advisor: Panel on Peace and Security of Northeast Asia (PSNA) (Co-Chairs: Michael HAMMEL-GREEN (Australia), Peter HAYES (USA), MOON Jong-In (ROK) and TOMONAGA Masao (Japan)

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