Is the North Korean regime deceiving us once again?
In a tweet Thursday, President Trump announced that he had received a second letter from North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un. The president praised Kim for releasing the supposed remains of American soldiers who were killed during the Korean War.
Thank you to Chairman Kim Jong Un for keeping your word & starting the process of sending home the remains of our great and beloved missing fallen! I am not at all surprised that you took this kind action. Also, thank you for your nice letter – l look forward to seeing you soon!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 2, 2018
While top administration figures continue to tout the progress on North Korea talks, there remain great concerns about the viability of the effort in its entirety.
As he secured a commitment for the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, @POTUS also secured a promise from Chairman Kim to return the remains of all fallen U.S. service-members lost in North Korea. pic.twitter.com/gluyJ0bFnn
— Vice President Mike Pence (@VP) August 1, 2018
For many months, the Trump administration has remained true to the goal of securing the full denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. However, North Korea experts across the political spectrum are becoming increasingly concerned that the latest moves from Pyongyang are nothing more than a smokescreen to buy time for their nuclear ambitions.
Earlier this week, news reports surfaced claiming that North Korea is continuing to ramp up production on its latest series of intercontinental ballistic missiles. Satellite images reportedly showed that North Korea is building liquid fueled ICBMs right outside of its capital. A regime apparently committed to denuclearization is making moves that achieve the exact opposite of that goal.
Bruce Klingner, a Heritage Foundation foreign policy scholar who served as the CIA’s Deputy Division Chief for Korea, has sounded the alarm about the current progress (or lack thereof) being made on denuclearization efforts. Earlier in the week, Klingner warned that the Trump administration may be moving in the direction of adopting the failed policies of the Obama administration.
My @cnn interview regarding North Korea continuing to produce ICBMs. "seems like the [Trump Administration] has adopted the Obama administration's policy of 'strategic patience.'" https://t.co/5G0xDIJsbO
— Bruce Klingner (@BruceKlingner) July 31, 2018
Signing a peace treaty with #NorthKorea right now would be a disastrous move. @BruceKlingner: Peace treaty would remove justification for UN designation for U.S. forces in South Korea, & "would be premature…before we reduce the conventional force threat."https://t.co/ezBE64DXUL
— John Cooper (@thejcoop) July 31, 2018
The Trump administration, aware of the outside criticism of its strategy, is urging analysts to let the diplomatic talks play out. Over the weekend, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo described the current negotiations with the Kim regime as “patient diplomacy.”
“We’re engaged in patient diplomacy,” Pompeo stated. “But we will not let this drag out to no end. I emphasized this position in the productive discussions I had with Vice Chairman Kim Yong Chol. President Trump remains upbeat about the prospects for North Korean denuclearization. Progress is happening.”
However, it’s only a matter of time before more and more people start to ask what progress has actually been made on denuclearization, and whether North Korea is serious about internal reform.
Since its founding, the North Korean regime has developed a reputation for deception and for breaking the rules. The regime has long used stall tactics in order to buy time to advance its nuclear program, while simultaneously finding a way to receive an economic bailout lifeline to prop up its broken Stalinist economy. Unfortunately, it looks like Pyongyang under Kim Jong Un might be up to its old tricks again.