End Sanctions, North Korea Says As Second Trump-Kim Summit Looms

By Patrick Goodenough | February 5, 2019 | 4:30 AM EST

Kim Jong Un is briefed by his right-hand-man Kim Yong Chol in Pyongyang on January 23, 2019, after Kim Yong Chol met in Washington with President Trump and U.S. officials to discuss plans for a second summit. (Photo: KCNA)

(CNSNews.com) – As the U.S. envoy for North Korea holds talks along the DMZ Tuesday to prepare for a second summit between President Trump and Kim Jong Un in the coming weeks, regime media outlets repeated calls for the U.S. to take “practical” actions in response to steps already taken by Pyongyang.

The outlets said that if the U.S. takes credible, corresponding actions following North Korea’s “proactive, prior efforts,” then the relationship will progress speedily.

If, however, the U.S. continues to pursue a policy of “unilateral sanctions against the communist party,” then the regime – as the North Korean dictator warned in a New Year message last month – may be compelled to find a “new way” to defend its sovereignty and achieve peace and stability on the Korean peninsula.

A commentary on the propaganda channel Uriminzokkiri said the regime has already taken clear steps that deserve a response.

“We have already proclaimed that we will no longer make or test nuclear weapons, nor use or proliferate them, and have taken a number of practical measures,” such as shutting down the Punggye-ri nuclear test site, it said.

The regime said those steps were not “a temporary measure,” but were taken as “a strategic decision to establish a permanent and well-established peace regime in the Korean peninsula.”

“The United States should demonstrate its willingness to resolve problems and trust by respecting and acknowledging our pragmatic and preemptive endeavors, and acting in a corresponding practical action.”

Exactly what steps Pyongyang is hoping for beyond an end to sanctions was not stated, but the Trump administration’s position remains that sanctions will remain in force until North Korea has denuclearized in a complete and verifiable manner.

U.S. Special Envoy for North Korea Stephen Biegun arrives in South Korea on February 3, 2019 for talks with South Korean officials, followed by meetings in the DMZ with a North Korean counterpart to prepare for a second summit between President Trump and Kim Jong Un. (Photo by Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images)

Alluding to that stance last week, U.S. envoy to North Korea Stephen Biegun during a speech at Stanford University envisaged what he called a “perfect outcome moment – where the last nuclear weapon leaves North Korea, the sanctions are lifted, the flag goes up in the embassy, and the [peace] treaty is signed in the same hour.”

Biegun conceded that that was an “ideal” and “even sounds slightly Pollyannaish.”

“But I am absolutely convinced – and more importantly, the president of the United States is convinced – that it’s time to move past 70 years of war and hostility on the Korean peninsula,” he continued. “There is no reason for this conflict to persist any longer.”

‘Expert access and monitoring mechanisms’

Biegun traveled to South Korea at the weekend, met in Seoul Monday with the government’s national security advisor, and on Tuesday was due to hold talks with Kim Hyok-chol, a senior North Korean diplomat, in the DMZ dividing the two Koreas.

The talks are designed to make final plans for a second Trump-Kim summit, which Trump has indicated will take place late his month.

The president is expected to announce the summit venue in the State of the Union address on Tuesday night, although some reports from the region indicate that the meeting may be held in the Vietnamese port city of Da Nang.

Singapore was the venue for last June’s first-ever summit between a U.S. and North Korean leader, which ended with a joint statement and expressions of optimism.

The ensuing months saw slow progress, even as the president and administration officials repeatedly drew attention to the change of mood, and the fact the regime had carried out no further nuclear or ballistic missile tests.

With a second summit looming, Biegun made clear in his Stanford talk what the U.S. expectations of meeting the Singapore summit commitment to complete denuclearization will entail.

He said the international community will need to “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.”

“We must reach agreement on expert access and monitoring mechanisms of key sites to international standards,” Biegun added. “And ultimately, we need to ensure the removal and destruction of stockpiles of fissile material, weapons, missiles, launchers, and other weapons of mass destruction.”

Trump told CBS’ “Face the Nation” in an interview broadcast Sunday that an agreement with North Korea would give the impoverished Stalinist state the opportunity to be transformed into an “economic behemoth.”

“It has a chance to be one of the great economic countries in the world,” he said, pointing to North Korea’s advantageous location neighboring China, Russia and South Korea.

“He can't do that with nuclear weapons and he can't do that on the path they are on now.”

Patrick Goodenough
Patrick Goodenough
Spencer Journalism Fellow

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