This picture taken on April 9, 2018 shows North Korean leader Kim Jong Un attending the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the Workers' Party of Korea in Pyongyang./AFP
This picture taken on April 9, 2018 shows North Korean leader Kim Jong Un attending the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the Workers' Party of Korea in Pyongyang./AFP

Trump in pursuit of a pipe dream

opinion April 15, 2018 01:00

By The Nation

2,036 Viewed

President’s attitude towards Iran nuclear deal is going to haunt him when he strives for the denuclearisation of North Korea



US President Donald Trump is preparing for possible talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un sometime this spring.

Trump has said his aim is to end North Korea’s nuclear weapons programme. It will be the most daunting security challenge for his presidency.

By all indications, Trump wants North Korea to completely denuclearise immediately. Needless to say, if he succeeds it would be a great feather in his cap as the leader of the free world.

But persuading North Korea to give up such weapons is never going to be easy. Pyongyang has repeatedly pointed to American aggression as the reason why it needs nuclear weapons.

People in Washington may dismiss such an argument as a lame excuse to justify Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons ambition. But if Washington takes the time to evaluate its own behaviour and its attitude and handling of other nuclear weapons deals, perhaps they would see a clear view of themselves in the mirror.

This is not to say that Kim’s statement about ending North’s nuclearisation programme should be believed. Kim will milk this new arrangement in his favour as he stretches the denuclearisation process to eternity.

No one in their right mind would believe that Kim would abandon his nuclear weapons programme but he might take the opportunity to remain engaged with the US.

It could end up like the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. The two sides can continue to talk, but the construction of Jewish settlements on occupied land will continue, as usual, making the whole peace process worthless.

For some months now, Kim has been going around telling the Chinese and South Koreans that he will discuss “denuclearisation” with the Americans. In that respect, he has been setting the pace and direction for diplomacy.

Kim wants to be seen as doing the right thing – for all the wrong reasons, perhaps. But at least it is the “right” thing. And if Trump isn’t careful, he could find himself falling into the trap that he dug up. In other words, his rhetoric and plans about scrapping the denuclearisation deal with Iran could come back and haunt him.

Since the presidential campaign, Trump has been going against allies and threatening to scrap the deal knowing that the agreement on Iran’s nuclear weapons programme was not America’s alone.

Trump accuses Iran of cheating but provides no evidence whatsoever. Findings from the International Atomic Energy Agency, which monitors the agreement, repeatedly concluded that Iran is in compliance, while American diplomats, military officers and other international experts said the same thing.

The then-president Barack Obama and international allies have put in place a very rigorous technological verification system to detect violations.

But Trump doesn’t want to talk about that. As stated earlier, his attitude and handling of Iran could come back and haunt his North Korea strategy and policy.

Indeed, it is very likely that Kim will see Trump’s handling of Iran as proof that the US cannot be trusted to stick to its commitments. In other words, why would Kim or any other future adversary believe what Trump or America is negotiating in good faith?

If anything, the achievement that the world had reached with Iran’s denuclearisation deal should be something that the US should aim for with North Korea.

Kim is unlikely to be interested in surrendering nuclear weapons because it means compromising on the regime’s long-term survivability. He may pay lip service to the idea of denuclearisation. But that is a far cry from giving up the project entirely.

Trump and his team will have to prepare themselves for a long and winding road with no end in sight.