Despite a historic meeting between Moon Jae-in and Kim Jong-un, a peace treaty between the two Koreas and the denuclearization of the North is threatened by the United States’ continued media blitz where it claims credit for bringing the North to the negotiating table.
Senior members of Trump’s administration including National Security Advisor John Bolton, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Presidential Legal Adviser Rudy Giuliani have all trumpeted the president’s harsh rhetoric as key in reining in the north.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in his first TV interview after being sworn in that the United States and its allies “have come together to put pressure on Kim Jong Un.”
“President Trump and that pressure campaign are the reasons Kim Jong Un wants this meeting.”
Channeling his boss, Pomeo added, ““We’re going to be very different. We’re going to negotiate in a different way than has been done before.”
Immediately after his appointment as Secretary of State, the US State department released a statement calling the humans rights situation in one of the most ‘repressive and abusive’ regimes in the world troubling.
“In tandem with the maximum pressure campaign, we will continue to press for accountability for those responsible,” the department said in a released statement.
While it is undoubtedly true that gross human rights violations occur regularly, if not daily, in the North, such rhetoric is unhelpful ahead of the Trump-Kim summit.
Pyongyang has responded through its state-run news agency says that such words threatens peace.
Pyongyang denies that a sanctions and rhetoric brought it to the negotiating table and that US officials were guilty of misleading public opinion.
“The US is deliberately provoking our country at the time when the situation on the Korean peninsula is moving toward peace and reconciliation thanks to the historic north-south summit and the Panmunjom Declaration,” the North said in a statement. “It would not be conducive to addressing the issue if the US miscalculates the peace-loving intention of [North Korea] as a sign of ‘weakness’ and continues to pursue its pressure and military threats against the latter.”
“This act cannot be construed otherwise than a dangerous attempt to ruin the hard-won atmosphere of dialogue and bring the situation back to square one.”
Meanwhile John Bolton has said that the United States is considering the Libya model of denuclearization for the North – Moammar Gaddafi let US and UK weapons inspectors into the country to visit their nuclear sites in the early 2000s as a gesture of goodwill.
But what Pyongyang likely took from the Bolton statement will be that by giving up his nuclear weapons program, Gaddafi let himself become vulnerable to external pressures resulting in his eventual ouster and demise.
Bolton have also made further statements that there would not be a troop withdrawal – or even reduction – from South Korea, in contradiction to Trump’s suggestion that it was a possibility. The North has made it clear that it considers the US presence in the South a provocation and troop levels could be a negotiating point between Trump and Kim.
Bolton’s statements do little to further the cause of peace and the north will remember that this was a man that has advocated for the destruction of the north in the past.