News & Politics

Kim Says He Will Give Up Nukes for U.S. Pledge Not to Invade

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un (AP Photo/Vincent Yu, File)

Does this sound like the basis for a deal?

North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un told South Korean President Moon Jae-in that he would completely denuclearize if the U.S. negotiated an end to the Korean War and pledged not to invade.

New York Times:

In a faith-building gesture ahead of a summit meeting with President Trump, Mr. Kim also said he would invite experts and journalists from South Korea and the United States to watch the shutdown next month of his country’s only known underground nuclear test site.

The comments by Mr. Kim were made on Friday when the leaders of the two Koreas met at Panmunjom, a village on their shared border, the spokesman, Yoon Young-chan, said on Sunday, providing additional details of the meeting.

“I know the Americans are inherently disposed against us, but when they talk with us, they will see that I am not the kind of person who would shoot nuclear weapons to the south, over the Pacific or at the United States,” Mr. Kim told Mr. Moon, according to Mr. Yoon’s account of the meeting.

It was another dramatically conciliatory statement by Mr. Kim, whose country threatened to do exactly those things during the height of nuclear tensions last year.

Charlie Brown. Lucy. Football. You’d like to think that Kim wouldn’t pull the ball away just as Trump is about to kick it, but looking at this offer should raise some alarm bells.

In essence, Kim will gain nothing while the U.S. loses little. We weren’t going to invade North Korea unless Kim was threatening us or South Korea with his nukes — something very hard to do if he doesn’t have any weapons. So getting rid of his nukes would automatically remove any reason for an invasion.

Kim knows this, which makes his offer more propaganda than substantive. Still, the idea of a quid pro quo on his missile program might be more like it. Even though dismantling his weapons program would be a very good thing, the knowledge of how to build a nuke will not be taken away. How quickly Kim could restart his program and marry a warhead to a missile will be a major issue to resolve.

It’s hard to fathom Kim’s endgame. Never in the history of diplomacy has a the leader of a wildly aggressive power suddenly beaten his swords into plowshares. I’m sure Trump and the U.S. are not going to be suckered by Kim and will build in confidence measures so that any deal will come about gradually.

A Kim-Trump handshake will be a media extravaganza, rivaling Nixon-Mao or Jerry Lewis-Dean Martin when they reconciled. But the real work will take years to complete and take place largely out of the public eye.

Is that where Kim will pull the ball away?