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North Korea

For Japan and South Korea, nuclear threat far from over

Despite what the US president claims, the Kim regime remains as dangerous as ever. While the summit deal is reason for optimism, the reality is Pyongyang has broken promises to disarm before

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 17 June, 2018, 3:09am
UPDATED : Sunday, 17 June, 2018, 3:09am

The difference between reality and rhetoric has been obvious ever since Kim Jong-un and Donald Trump held their historic meeting in Singapore. The American president tweeted upon returning to the United States that the world could now rest easy as “there is no longer a nuclear threat from North Korea”.

But East Asians, especially South Koreans and Japanese, know otherwise; the document the two leaders signed was vague and has done nothing to lessen the threat from Pyongyang’s bombs and missiles.

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Only when the sides have worked out details, including a timetable for Pyongyang to dismantle its arsenal, submit to inspections and verification, and begin the process of decommissioning, can the region indeed rest easier.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has taken the path of realism in briefing President Xi Jinping and his Chinese, Japanese and South Korean counterparts.

He contradicted North Korean state media suggestions that international sanctions would soon be rolled back, contending they would remain until there was complete denuclearisation.

Trump’s announcement that war games between American and South Korean troops would be suspended on grounds of being provocative to Pyongyang was also tempered, with the president and his top diplomat separately clarifying that the matter was dependent on negotiations taking place “in good faith”. Such remarks acknowledge North Korea remains a threat.

That is why Japan and South Korea are as in need of security guarantees from any agreement as North Korea. Pyongyang has promised “complete denuclearisation” several times before, and when talks were not to its liking, turned its back and resumed weapons development and testing. It is premature to say the threat posed has gone or that the summit has made a substantial change.

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Pompeo anticipates Pyongyang will undertake “major disarmament” by 2021. He said discussions to begin the process would begin in a week.

But the North’s scrapping of its nuclear facilities and missiles could take a decade or more and there are bound to be challenges. There is reason for optimism, but rhetoric should not cloud the truth.