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(EDITORIAL from Korea Times on May 17)

2018/05/17 07:01

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North's abrupt move

North Korea's indefinite suspension of high-level inter-Korean talks is apparently designed to express its discontent with strong U.S. demands for immediate and complete denuclearization. Pyongyang is also trying to put more pressure on Washington to extract more concessions from the U.S. side at an upcoming summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and U.S. President Donald Trump to be held in Singapore on June 12.

On Wednesday, the North also threatened to cancel the unprecedented summit with the U.S. if it comes under continued pressure to "unilaterally" abandon its nuclear program. This threat came hours after Pyongyang abruptly suspended South-North talks planned for the day. The North cited the two-week Max Thunder joint air drills between the South and the U.S. as a reason for the suspension.

It is regrettable for Pyongyang to make such a threat which could pour cold water on the growing mood for detente not only with Seoul, but also Washington. We hope the North will refrain from going back to its old tactics of agreeing to do something and then undoing it. Such tactics could only prove Kim's olive branch is nothing but a disguised peace gesture to avoid a potential U.S. pre-emptive strike or buy time to develop a nuclear arsenal.

Of course, the Kim regime must have been displeased with U.S. calls for complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization (CVID). The North is opposing U.S. moves to apply a Libya-style denuclearization formula, under which the African country transferred all of its fissile materials to the U.S. for dismantling. The North apparently opposes such a formula, believing the Moammar Gadhafi regime collapsed because it gave up its nuclear ambitions.

The North's displeasure was manifested in a statement issued by First Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye-gwan that Pyongyang has no interest in a summit with Washington if it is unilaterally coerced into giving up its nuclear weapons. He also criticized Trump's top security adviser John Bolton and other U.S. officials for trying to force the North to follow the Libyan model. Bolton called on Pyongyang to send all of its nuclear weapons to a processing center in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, where Libya's materials are stored.

The North is protesting the Libyan model which precludes any compensation before full denuclearization. Kim Jong-un has opted for a phased and simultaneous denuclearization so the North can get rewards for every step it takes in the denuclearization process. It might have been infuriated over other U.S. demands for the scrapping of chemical and biological weapons in addition to its nuclear warheads and intercontinental ballistic missiles.

The Kim regime should not attempt to scuttle its diplomatic offensive and go back to square one. It must not try to find any excuse to cancel the upcoming Trump-Kim summit. Instead, it should make sincere efforts to deliver on its promise to abandon its nuclear program. Otherwise, the North can never take the path toward peace, coexistence and co-prosperity.

(END)

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