It must be noted that any intention to abandon nuclear and ballistic missiles has not been mentioned.
Kim Jong Un, chairman of the Workers’ Party of Korea, said North Korea would suspend nuclear tests and intercontinental ballistic missile launch tests at the plenary meeting of the party’s Central Committee. It was said that the nuclear test ground at the Pyunggye-ri site in northeastern North Korea would be dismantled.
No use of nuclear weapons was also decided at the meeting, on the basis that there is “no nuclear threat.”
Welcoming North Korea’s latest decision as “a positive move,” Prime Minister Shinzo Abe expressed a cautious stance, saying, “I’ll keep a close watch on whether this move will lead to the complete, verifiable and irreversible abandonment.”
Abe’s response is natural considering North Korea’s history of breaking agreements on denuclearization.
The problem is that Kim emphasized “completion of nuclear forces” and maintained a position of claiming to be a nuclear power. It is apparent that Kim intends to hold negotiations on nuclear disarmament on an equal footing with the United States and secure a U.S. guarantee of the regime and other things in return.
North Korea has already conducted nuclear tests six times and proceeded with the miniaturization of nuclear warheads. Suspension of nuclear tests alone does not mean the reduction of the North Korean threat.
To realize denuclearization in a true sense, Pyongyang will be called on to dismantle its nuclear weapons, transport nuclear materials overseas and be subject to inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency. There is more to come in the negotiations.
U.S. President Donald Trump praised Kim’s statement, saying it is “very good news” and “big progress.” It is hoped that Trump will make thorough preparations for the U.S.-North Korea summit, which is expected to be held by early June.
The halt of ICBM launch tests means the suspension of the development of missiles capable of reaching the U.S. mainland. It seems that Kim sent a positive message to the United States.
However, the threat of North Korea’s short- and intermediate-range ballistic missiles capable of hitting both Japan and South Korea still remains.
Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera and U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis recently held a meeting in which they confirmed that Washington will urge North Korea during the planned Trump-Kim talks to abolish all ballistic missiles. It is essential for Japan and the United States to maintain close coordination on the matter.
With the U.N. Security Council’s sanctions resolutions being steadily implemented, Pyongyang is falling into a predicament. The fact that Kim presented a policy of channeling all the country’s energy into its economy during the meeting of the Central Committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea is proof that the sanctions against the country are effective. The international community must continue applying pressure on the country.
South Korean President Moon Jae In will hold talks with Kim on Friday. Moon must draw from Kim a statement of his even more clearly defined intention for denuclearization.