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Thomas Gallatin / March 7, 2018

Is North Korea Really Willing to Denuclearize? Nope.

Kim Jong-un plays up a positive image as he seeks to exploit South Korea and gain sanctions relief.

On Tuesday, after North and South Korean officials engaged in diplomatic talks (importantly, talks initiated by the North), South Korean President Moon Jae-in’s office stated, “The North Korean side clearly stated its willingness to denuclearize. It made it clear that it would have no reason to keep nuclear weapons if the military threat to the North was eliminated and its security guaranteed.” That’s a seemingly significant about-face from mere months ago, when North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un was threatening “thousands-fold” vengeance, “Armageddon” and vowing to annihilate the U.S. down to “the last man on this planet.” So did Kim just get religion? Not likely.

This is a game the world has seen — and fallen for — too many times. The provoking nation invites the world’s ire and subsequent sanctions, only to then signal a desire to negotiate and willingness to change its provocative ways. Soon it obtains sanctions relief, only to later renege on its promised changes while leveling blame on the other negotiating parties for supposedly failing to uphold their end of the bargain. Kim Jong-un is attempting to play this gambit — the same one both his father and grandfather successfully exploited.

So what is Kim really after here? It appears that his objective is two-fold, and his dangling the carrot of “denuclearization” is merely a ruse that he will quickly pull back as soon as his demands are met. Recall his stated belief that his nuclear arsenal is his “treasured sword.” Kim’s first objective is gaining concessions from South Korea, the UN and possibly the U.S. for sanctions relief. Note the significant effort employed by the rogue regime to promote a feel-good, positive image of North Korea to the world during the recent Winter Olympics — a propaganda effort aided happily by the American Leftmedia.

Second, Kim is aiming to drive a wedge between South Korea and the U.S. with the ultimate goal of pushing all U.S. military presence out of the South. Kim keenly is exploiting a sentiment that has long been expressed by liberals in South Korea who tend to hold a negative view of the U.S.‘s long-running military presence in their country. Kim is also astutely aware of the fact that the South Korean president is a member of the liberal party, which holds a more dovish policy stance toward their northern neighbors and is the same party Kim Jong-il successfully exploited via the “Sunshine policy.”

From North Korea’s sudden desire to negotiate we are learning that President Donald Trump’s policy of severe sanctions is having a significant and desired impact. This also indicates that China has begun to pull back some of its support from its rogue puppet, as the last thing the Chinese want is a war on their doorstep.

The U.S. will need to be cautious, hold the line and not fall for the same old dangling-carrot trick the North Korean regime has played time and again. If Kim is truly willing to denuclearize, then he must do so before any sanctions relief is implemented. Anything less plays right into his hands. But Trump is no dummy when it comes to negotiations, and he seems well aware of the cards in play. He tweeted on Wednesday, “Possible progress being made in talks with North Korea. For the first time in many years, a serious effort is being made by all parties concerned. The World is watching and waiting! May be false hope, but the U.S. is ready to go hard in either direction!”

Unfortunately, we’re betting that Kim is bluffing. As The Wall Street Journal notes, “[North Korea’s former leaders] also extracted concessions in return for talking and broke every promise they made.”

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