TIM SHORROCK: The talk was before this meeting began, it looked like they were talking about North Korea offering to shut down Yongbyon facility, which is their largest nuclear plant. It produces plutonium for their bombs. It also is a uranium enrichment plant. It’s a huge complex. There were talking about shutting that down and in return getting, you know, sort of a partial lifting of sanctions from the U.S., the sanctions that had been imposed on the north. And also, there was talk of both sides opening liaison offices in each other’s capital and making a declaration that they support the end of the Korean War.
But there got to be a lot of pushback inside the administration from the forces that are led by John Bolton and Trump’s national security advisor who’s never been a friend of negotiating with North Korea. And, you know, there were leaks in the press about how certain officials thought Trump was going to give away the store and they didn’t think that policy was on track and so on.
And so, you know, it was very clear that there was some dissension within the administration. Kind of at the last minute, Bolton threw on the table a demand that North Korea also shut down all its chemical and biological weapon systems. This was not even part of the denuclearization talks.
And so, you know, he added this at the Hanoi meeting and that also, you know, chilled the atmosphere for dialogue. I mean, you know, you’re here, you have this negotiation supposed to be about nuclear weapons. So you throw in like, you know, everything else and that was, you know, in my opinion that was designed to make the talks fail.
BETWEEN THE LINES: Tim, I wanted to ask you this certainly overarching question. When a lot of American commentators are asked about these talks and the prospects for denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, there’s a lot of folks, moderate commentators, folks from right-wing and moderate think tanks and so on who say, “Kim will never give up nuclear weapons because it’s the only insurance policy he has to keep his family dynasty in power.
There are certainly people who will point out that Libya is a cautionary tale where the United States worked to denuclearize Libya’s in-progress nuclear program and then, you know, some years later, as we all know, (Muammar) Gaddafi was overthrown and killed. It is a cautionary tale for many nations around the world that if you have the nukes, the United States will not be overthrowing your government anytime soon. What do you make of the analysis that Kim will never give up the nukes because it’s the only insurance policy he has?
TIM SHORROCK I don’t agree. I think it’s very possible he would. But like I said, I think there has to be a situation where he feels his country is secure, you know, without them. And, actually, you know, no chance of a U.S. regime change operation or invasion or attack. And so, like we did the first two steps of the agreement that they made in Singapore was One, to establish new North Korea-U.S. relations and Two, work toward a peace regime between North and South Korea. And so like, to them, restoring a real – it’s never had one really before – creating a new relationship with the U.S. where they’re no longer enemies is their priority. And that’s why they have the weapons. And if they feel like that, if they can have a relationship and you know – develop economic ties, cultural ties – then that’s when, you know, new denuclearization would be at the last stage of that.
And that’s sort of how the South Koreans see it, too. Not denuclearization as an end in and of itself, but as the end of a process in which, you know, the U.S. and South Korea stop being enemy states and be at least, you know, on a normal relationship like you have with other countries – not necessarily friends or allies, but you know, no longer enemies. I disagree with people who say that.
And there’s also a lot of propaganda here among the thinktanks and this sort of huge new generation of North Korea so-called experts who say North Korea’s real aim is to drive U.S. forces out of South Korea and unify the country into their own system – which I think is bunk.