Alex Ward reports new details on the Trump administration’s dead-end North Korea policy:
The details of the US-proposed timeline, which have not previously been reported, are as follows: North Korea hands over 60 to 70 percent of its nuclear warheads within six to eight months; the US or a third party — likely another country — takes possession of them and removes them from North Korea. It’s unclear what concessions, if any, the US would offer in exchange beyond sanctions relief or removing North Korea from the state sponsors of terrorism list.
According to two people familiar with the discussions, this is the plan that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has presented to North Korean negotiators multiple times over the past two months. But each time, the North Korean negotiators, led by Kim Yong Chol — a top aide to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un — have turned down Pompeo’s proposal.
North Korea isn’t fully disarming, and it was never likely to agree to handing over any nuclear weapons up front. Asking them to give up the bulk of their arsenal in under a year is ridiculous and was always going to be rejected. Cheryl Rofer dismissed the possibility of getting North Korea to give up just five nuclear weapons back in May: “It’s not going to happen.” She argued that North Korea wouldn’t agree to this because it would provide the U.S. with far too much information about their weapons program. She added:
The proposal that North Korea send “hostage” nuclear weapons to the United States smacks of a lead-up to the “Libya model” of full removal of their nuclear weapons program, which North Korea has unambiguously rejected.
The administration may have stopped explicitly referring to Libya by name, but it appears that they are still determined to chase after the fantasy of disarmament despite North Korea’s obvious unwillingness to go along. Demanding that North Korea quickly hand over 60-70% of their nuclear weapons up front shows that the Trump administration remains wedded to an unrealistic goal in negotiations with Pyongyang, and it confirms that this has prevented any real progress from taking place in those negotiations.