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Former White House Coordinator for Arms Control and WMD Terrorism
North Korea

National Members Call: The Future of the Iran Deal and the U.S-North Korea Summit



The Trump administration is moving to reimpose sanctions on Iran and any U.S. or foreign businesses that continue to do business with the country in defiant violation of the 2015 nuclear deal. 

The Trump administration’s vision of a “better deal” with Iran, as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo described in speaking at the Heritage Foundation today, is like a mirage in the desert—it may look good, but it is not real and there is no path to get there.

And by trying to, the United States only risks the deal at hand.

Trump’s actions could open the door for Iran to expand its nuclear capabilities, leading to a new proliferation crisis and an arms race in the Middle East. Worse still, his decision to violate the Iran deal could undermine the negotiations and change the outcomes at next month's historic summit between the United States and North Korea.

Join Arms Control Association Executive Director Daryl Kimball and Director for Nonproliferation Policy Kelsey Davenport for a members-only briefing on these developments.

This is your opportunity to engage directly with our national staff and ask what we can expect over the next few months and what these decisions mean for the United States, Iran, North Korea, and the rest of the world.

MEMBERS: Check your email for a custom registration link. 
NON-MEMBERS: Join today to receive your registration link and access code. 


Join Arms Control Association Executive Director Daryl Kimball and Director for Nonproliferation Policy Kelsey Davenport for a members-only briefing on the future of the Iran Deal and the upcoming U.S.-North Korea Summit.

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Freezing and Reversing North Korea’s Nuclear Advances

May 2018
By Daryl G. Kimball, Executive Director

For most of the past year, North Korea’s provocative long-range missile launches and a high-yield nuclear test, combined with the reckless threats of “fire and fury” and “preventive war” from the White House, have raised tensions and increased the threat of a catastrophic conflict in the region. Some of us warned that nuclear war was closer than at any point since the Cold War.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un shaking hands with then-CIA Director Mike Pompeo in April. (Photo by The White House via Getty Images)Now, in an extraordinary turnaround, an uneasy détente has emerged. North Korean leader Kim Jong Un announced on Jan. 1 that he wants to ease tensions with South Korea, and high-level talks between officials of the two governments were held in advance of the Winter Olympics. Through South Korean intermediaries, Kim extended a summit offer to U.S. President Donald Trump, who, to the surprise of many, immediately accepted. Although Trump deserves credit for being so bold as to agree, the North Korean nuclear problem will not be resolved in one meeting, especially if he goes off-script, acts impulsively, or carries unrealistic expectations.

The direct dialogue is overdue, it is historic, and it carries high stakes. Trump and his entire national security team must understand that this diplomacy will require preparation, patience, and persistence. To succeed, they must maintain a principled but balanced approach closely coordinated with key allies in Seoul and partners in Beijing. Further, Washington will need to address Pyongyang’s own security and economic concerns.

So far, so good. The North Koreans have expressed a willingness to consider denuclearization if their national security can be guaranteed. Reportedly, the North Koreans have said that they will not demand the removal of all U.S. forces in South Korea. Further, Kim announced April 21 that he is suspending ballistic missile and nuclear testing, is closing the Punggye-ri nuclear test site, and will “join the international desire and efforts for the total halt” to nuclear tests. South Korean President Moon Jae-in and Kim reaffirmed their intentions at their successful—and historic—inter-Korean summit April 27.

Kim is clearly confident about his position going into the summit with Trump, and he appears to be preparing his people for potential additional steps toward denuclearization if U.S. leaders negotiate in good faith and can deliver on their promises.

The table is finally set for a meaningful, sustained dialogue between Washington and Pyongyang on verifiable denuclearization, normalizing diplomatic ties, and negotiating a formal end to the Korean War. Key near-term U.S. goals should be to solidify North Korea’s testing suspension, to bring about a halt to its fissile material production, to win the release of three captive U.S. citizens, and to discuss measures to further reduce tensions on the divided peninsula.

North Korea’s no-nuclear-testing pledge is very significant. The North already has a proven high-yield warhead design, but additional tests could be used to achieve military and technical advances. Leaders in Washington, Seoul, Beijing, Tokyo, and elsewhere should seek to solidify Pyongyang’s nuclear testing suspension by securing its signature and ratification of the 1996 Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, along with a confidence-building visit by the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization.

Solidifying a halt to further ballistic missile tests is also crucial because it can possibly stop the North Koreans just short of developing a reliable system to deliver their high-yield warhead. Halting production of fissile material and verifying the freeze is the next logical step, as it would put a ceiling on the potential number of nuclear devices North Korea could assemble.

If Trump could achieve all of this, it would be a major breakthrough, even if falls short of the more sweeping task of negotiating the verifiable denuclearization of the Korean peninsula. But Rome was not built in a day. To achieve the many additional steps toward the long-term goal of denuclearization of the peninsula and a durable peace regime, the Trump-Kim summit should also produce agreement on a balanced framework for sustained, direct, high-level negotiations on these and possibly other issues.

Trump has said that he will not repeat the mistakes of the past negotiations; likewise, Kim said April 27 that he doesn't want a repeat of the past "where we were unable to fulfill our agreements." Indeed, previous agreements had been partially successful in curbing North Korea's capabilities, but fell apart in later stages of implementation.

These negotiations will demand even greater persistence, patience and political will. Kim’s nuclear and missile capabilities are more substantial and dangerous today, his bargaining power is greater, and the cost of failure is higher. And if Trump is foolish enough to withdraw from the successful 2015 multilateral nuclear deal with Iran, Kim will be more reluctant to make concessions.

Members of Congress, for their part, should demand clarity about the administration’s strategy and regular reports on the negotiations. Yet, they should refrain from demanding specific outcomes or immediate results. The stakes are too high and the opportunity too great for such games.

Now, after a period of reckless nuclear brinksmanship, the hard work of pursuing disarmament diplomacy begins. Can Team Trump pull this off? As the president often says, “We will see.” It will not come easy, but it is better than the alternatives.

The monthly “Focus” editorials from Arms Control Today are available for reprint on a non-exclusive basis
with permission from the Arms Control Association and link to the original publication online.


For most of the past year, North Korea’s provocative long-range missile launches and a high-yield nuclear test, combined with the reckless threats of “fire and fury” and “preventive war” from the U.S. White House, have raised tensions and increased the threat of a catastrophic conflict in the region.

The Art of the Summit

May 2018
By Leon V. Sigal

“North Korea just stated that it is in the final stages of developing a nuclear weapon capable of reaching parts of the United States,” President-elect Donald Trump tweeted a day after leader Kim Jong Un’s New Year’s Day speech in 2017. “It won’t happen.”

By stopping nuclear and missile testing just short of having a proven thermonuclear weapon and an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) to deliver it to all of the United States, Kim has made it possible for Trump to achieve his wish, but only if he is prepared to sustain negotiations and live up to his commitments. By contrast, if Trump follows advice to confront Kim at the summit with an ultimatum to disarm or else, North Korea could resume testing.

People watch a television news report showing pictures of U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at a railway station in Seoul on March 9. Donald Trump agreed on March 8 to a historic first meeting with Kim Jong Un in a stunning development in America's high-stakes nuclear standoff with North Korea. (Photo: JUNG YEON-JE/AFP/Getty Images)Whether Kim may be willing to disarm and what he will want in return is a matter of mere speculation. Concrete proposals for reciprocal steps and diplomatic give-and-take is the only way to find out.

If Trump wants a successful summit, he will seek a statement of principles in which Kim commits to denuclearization and to take some specific steps toward that end. Kim may be willing to make such a commitment to denuclearize, Trump’s ultimate goal; but in return, he will want Trump to pledge an end to enmity. That has been North Korea’s aim ever since 1988, when Kim’s grandfather, Kim Il Sung, anticipating the Soviet Union’s collapse, reached out to reconcile with the United States, South Korea, and Japan in order to avoid overdependence on China.

For Pyongyang, that aim was the basis of the 1994 Agreed Framework and the September 2005 six-party joint statement. For Washington, the point of these agreements was suspension of Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile programs. Under the Agreed Framework, North Korea shuttered production of fissile material and stopped test launches of medium- and long-range missiles for nearly a decade and did so again from 2007 to 2009. Both agreements collapsed, however, when Washington did little to implement its commitment to reconcile and Pyongyang reneged on denuclearization.

That past is prologue. The most urgent step now is to induce North Korea to suspend production of fissile material. Without it, a North Korean commitment not to proliferate would not be as valuable. Remote monitoring may prove of some use at known production facilities, but delaying suspension to negotiate detailed verification would allow time for more plutonium and highly enriched uranium (HEU) to be produced in the interim. A starting point would be for North Korea to declare how much potential bomb fuel, that is, plutonium and HEU, it has produced and how many nuclear weapons it has. That declaration would be subject to subsequent verification. Beyond a shutdown of fissile material production, Trump might seek a halt to new deployments of intermediate- and intercontinental-range missiles, which also can be monitored remotely.

In return, Kim will want evidence that Trump is willing to reconcile. The Trading With the Enemy Act sanctions imposed before the nuclear issue arose could be relaxed yet again, and energy assistance, unilaterally halted by South Korea in 2008, could be resumed. Verification will require more steps to end enmity, including a commitment to diplomatic recognition starting with an exchange of liaison offices, a pledge by Washington to begin a peace process in Korea, and more energy aid. South Korea could halt its development of a new 300-kilometer-range ballistic missile and allow reciprocal inspections of sites the North suspects host nuclear weapons.

Such a standstill agreement would enable Trump to claim the success he wants. If he demands too much, however, he could torpedo the summit.

The odds of persuading North Korea to go beyond another temporary suspension and dismantle its nuclear and missile production facilities are slim without firm commitments from Washington and Seoul to take more far-reaching steps toward political and economic normalization, engage in a peace process to end the Korean War, and negotiate regional security arrangements, among them a nuclear-weapon-free zone that would provide a multilateral legal framework for denuclearization.1

Dismantling production facilities and disarming will take years, as will convincing steps toward reconciliation. Only then will it become clear whether Kim is willing to give up his weapons.

If negotiations fail to stop North Korea from arming, the United States and its allies can continue to rely on deterrence. Yet, some steps each side takes to bolster deterrence raise the risk of deadly conflict, as shown by the March 2010 sinking of the South Korean corvette Cheonan in retaliation for the South firing on a North Korean naval vessel the previous November and the subsequent exchange of artillery fire in the West Sea.

So even then, the United States will need to complement deterrence with diplomatic engagement to reduce the risk of war, just as it took the Cuban missile crisis to get the United States and the Soviet Union to negotiate in earnest.


1. For a version of a comprehensive settlement, see Morton Halperin et al., “General Roadmap and Work Plan for Nuclear Diplomacy With North Korea,” NAPSnet Special Reports, April 10, 2018, https://nautilus.org/napsnet/napsnet-special-reports/general-roadmap-and-work-plan-for-nuclear-diplomacy-with-north-korea/.

Leon V. Sigal is director of the Northeast Asia Cooperative Security Project at the Social Science Research Council in New York and author of Disarming Strangers: Nuclear Diplomacy With North Korea (1998).

How the Trump-Kim meeting can go well—or badly.

Q&A: Prospects and Perils at a Trump-Kim Summit

May 2018

U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un are due to meet by early June in a historic, high-stakes summit.

They make an odd couple: a self-confident U.S. president, largely inexperienced in international affairs and distracted by federal investigations, who is looking to eliminate North Korea’s nuclear threat; and an authoritarian North Korean leader, undercut by severe international sanctions, who is seeking to ensure the survival of the dynastic regime established 70 years ago by his grandfather, Kim Il Sung. In the past year, they have traded insults, such as “little rocket man” and “dotard,” and threatened each other with nuclear devastation, demonstrating just how much is on the line at this summit, which would be the first meeting between a sitting U.S. president and a leader of communist North Korea.

How will they interact face to face? What will they decide about the future of North Korea’s nuclear weapons systems, now capable of striking much or all of the United States? Can they set aside decades of enmity between the two countries to avoid repeating the past failures?

Two experts on U.S.-North Korean diplomacy share some of their views looking ahead to a Trump-Kim meeting. Jenny Town is assistant director of the U.S.-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies and managing editor of the website 38 North. Frank Jannuzi is president and CEO of the Mansfield Foundation and a former policy director for East Asian and Pacific affairs for the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee. (Photo credits: The U.S.-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins SAIS, The Mansfield Foundation)Arms Control Today in mid-April asked two experts on U.S.-North Korean diplomacy to share some of their views looking ahead to a meeting. Jenny Town is assistant director of the U.S.-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies and managing editor of the website 38 North, which analyzes North Korean developments. Frank Jannuzi is president and CEO of the Mansfield Foundation and a former policy director for East Asian and Pacific affairs for the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

What should the goals and objectives of the proposed Trump-Kim summit be? What can the two heads of state reasonably expect to accomplish in one meeting?

Town: This is not going to be a one-time, problem-solved event, but can create the top-down mandate for negotiations on a common goal and a mutual understanding of how that process will proceed. Especially important will be gaining mutual agreement on the pacing for this process to avoid frustration early on.

Jannuzi: The main goal for the United States should be to reaffirm or, more accurately, “establish” that North Korea is prepared to abandon its nuclear weapons completely and verifiably in exchange for peace, sanctions relief, and security assurances. I don't think “irreversible” denuclearization has ever been a realistic goal, as the scientific capacity to produce nuclear weapons, once learned, cannot be forgotten.

Kim will almost certainly hand over the three detained Americans, either at the summit or shortly thereafter, as a gift to Trump, who will bring them to the White House for a photo op, crediting his pressure tactics for their release. Trump will not offer and Kim does not expect any sanctions relief. Kim does not expect to receive any “gifts” beyond the great gift Trump is already giving him by agreeing to a face-to-face meeting as equals.

What does the administration need to do to prepare Trump for an encounter with Kim, and how might Mike Pompeo as secretary of state and John Bolton as national security adviser affect the administration’s approach?

Town: In the next few weeks, efforts should be focused on setting clear objectives and realistic expectations for the summit. I’m sure the administration is developing what a desired road map for this process might be and briefing Trump on areas where there is flexibility and where there is not. There is no shortage of ideas out there on what should be included in a comprehensive agreement, and there are past agreements to draw from. Certainly, both sides are likely studying these past agreements; assessing what new conditions exist that didn’t before, such as North Korea’s advancements in weapons of mass destruction technologies; and mapping out new priorities for what will need to be addressed in a new agreement and including roles for various actors.

Jannuzi: To paraphrase former U.S. Secretary of Defense Bill Perry's admonition on how to engage North Korea, we must all deal with the United States as it is, rather than as we might wish it to be. Trump will represent the United States at this summit, and he probably will not be prepared for it. He does not read, and it is not clear that he will listen to any advice. At the summit, Trump will have many opportunities to freelance answers to complex questions and improvise slap-dash solutions to decades-old challenges. The Trump administration will likely spend weeks doing "damage control" after the summit, walking back the president's words and "contextualizing" them for their North Korean counterparts.

If Pompeo and Bolton have a chance to influence Trump at all, they will probably play constructive roles. In his testimony before the Senate, Pompeo indicated both a willingness to talk to North Korea and a healthy skepticism about whether the North Koreans can be relied on to fulfill the terms of any deal. Pompeo will need to keep his skepticism in check for now. There will be plenty of time later to address the dogged questions of phasing, verification, and reciprocity that will make any deal difficult to implement. As for Bolton, Trump will likely use him as a foil, trotting him out whenever he wants to remind the North Koreans that some in his inner circle would prefer to bomb their territory. Trump will play good cop to Bolton's bad cop, painting himself as the reasonable negotiating partner looking for a “deal” in comparison to the Bolton “pit bull” itching for a rumble.

How can the two sides create a framework for sustained negotiations on steps toward denuclearization and a peace regime on the Korean peninsula?

Town: While there are several bilateral summits going on, this issue certainly will need multilateral cooperation to solve. It is crucial to have buy-in from the key stakeholders, not only for what they bring to the table but also to avoid intentional disruptions to the process for being left out.

Jannuzi: I think the Trump administration seeks a “declaratory” outcome from this summit, not a substantive outcome or sustained process. Trump will declare that, as a result of his pressure tactics and brilliant negotiating skill, North Korea has promised to denuclearize. He will muse publicly about getting a Nobel peace prize and ask the media to praise his historic accomplishment. Fox News will oblige him. Kim will declare that his nuclear weapons have accomplished their purpose and delivered peace and security. He will bask in the warmth of the respect and international legitimacy implied by his summit with Trump. Both leaders will leave all of the “details” to be worked out later by their teams.

Substantive talks, which will likely be delayed until after the U.S. midterm elections, will prove long and difficult, if they take place at all. The United States has no discernible, realistic road map to accomplish denuclearization and so will have to draft one over the summer that can be presented to the North Koreans for their evaluation and response. In the meantime, I expect the two sides [to] meet at the working level, focusing on very modest interim steps, such as sustaining a missile and nuclear test freeze in exchange for no new sanctions or punitive measures by the United States.

What role do you see South Korean President Moon Jae-in and Chinese President Xi Jinping playing in facilitating a positive outcome?

Town: China and South Korea are key players in the process. Xi’s support for negotiations and belief that Kim is ready to go down this road seems to be already set. Whether Moon walks away from his meeting with Kim at Panmunjom with that same perspective could influence whether the Trump-Kim summit even happens.

Jannuzi: Moon will ensure that the Trump administration has a clear understanding of the results of the Moon-Kim summit, and he will encourage Kim to hand Trump what he most wants: a “win.” Xi will warn Kim not to waste this opportunity to transform the U.S. posture from hostility to cooperation, and he will likely pledge some relaxation of sanctions enforcement if North Korea promises to denuclearize.

What pitfalls from past U.S.-North Korean experiences must be avoided so that we do not sink back into a cycle of escalation?

Town: The key point to learn from past agreements is that the devil is in the details. Making sure that once an agreement is on paper, the details are specific, nothing is taken for granted, and verification measures are explicit. Multilateral coordination will be essential to prevent disruptions and loopholes. Moreover, coordination among domestic policy institutions will be important to avoid various actors taking uncoordinated actions that undermine or derail the process.

Jannuzi: The United States should understand that denuclearization and peace are processes that require time and patience. Washington will surely encounter difficulties implementing any agreement. Rather than see each problem as proof of North Korean bad faith, Washington should be prepared for a sustained diplomatic effort that will likely take decades to accomplish its ultimate objectives.

Unfortunately, this is not the approach the Trump administration has in mind. It says that it wants to front-load any agreement to avoid the “mistakes of the past,” including the phased, reciprocal nature of the 1994 Agreed Framework. It wants a process of complete, verifiable, and irreversible denuclearization, known as CVID, that is completed in months, not years. This is not realistic. The Korean peninsula has been divided for 70 years, and the North Koreans have been pursuing nuclear weapons for decades. They will not abandon them quickly or cheaply, and it will require CVIPS (complete, verifiable, and irreversible peace and security) in exchange for CVID.

Two experts look ahead to a pivotal meeting.

DOCUMENT: Panmunjeom Declaration for Peace, Prosperity and Unification of the Korean Peninsula

May 2018

The following is the an English translation from the South Korean government of the full text of a joint declaration signed and issued by South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at the end of their April 27 summit at the Joint Security Area of Panmunjom.

During this momentous period of historical transformation on the Korean Peninsula, reflecting the enduring aspiration of the Korean people for peace, prosperity and unification, President Moon Jae-in of the Republic of Korea and Chairman Kim Jong Un of the State Affairs Commission of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea held an Inter-Korean Summit Meeting at the “Peace House” at Panmunjeom on April 27, 2018.

The two leaders solemnly declared before the 80 million Korean people and the whole world that there will be no more war on the Korean Peninsula and thus a new era of peace has begun.

North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un (L) and South Korea's President Moon Jae-in (R) take part in a welcoming ceremony April 27 at the start of their historic summit at the truce village of Panmunjom. (Photo: KOREA SUMMIT PRESS POOL/AFP/Getty Images)

The two leaders, sharing the firm commitment to bring a swift end to the Cold War relic of longstanding division and confrontation, to boldly approach a new era of national reconciliation, peace and prosperity, and to improve and cultivate inter-Korean relations in a more active manner, declared at this historic site of Panmunjeom as follows :

1. South and North Korea will reconnect the blood relations of the people and bring forward the future of co-prosperity and unification led by Koreans by facilitating comprehensive and groundbreaking advancement in inter-Korean relations. Improving and cultivating inter-Korean relations is the prevalent desire of the whole nation and the urgent calling of the times that cannot be held back any further.

  • South and North Korea affirmed the principle of determining the destiny of the Korean nation on their own accord and agreed to bring forth the watershed moment for the improvement of inter-Korean relations by fully implementing all existing agreements and declarations adopted between the two sides thus far.
  • South and North Korea agreed to hold dialogue and negotiations in various fields including at high level, and to take active measures for the implementation of the agreements reached at the Summit.
  • South and North Korea agreed to establish a joint liaison office with resident representatives of both sides in the Gaeseong region in order to facilitate close consultation between the authorities as well as smooth exchanges and cooperation between the peoples.
  • South and North Korea agreed to encourage more active cooperation, exchanges, visits and contacts at all levels in order to rejuvenate the sense of national reconciliation and unity. Between South and North, the two sides will encourage the atmosphere of amity and cooperation by actively staging various joint events on the dates that hold special meaning for both South and North Korea, such as June 15, in which participants from all levels, including central and local governments, parliaments, political parties, and civil organizations, will be involved. On the international front, the two sides agreed to demonstrate their collective wisdom, talents, and solidarity by jointly participating in international sports events such as the 2018 Asian Games.
  • South and North Korea agreed to endeavor to swiftly resolve the humanitarian issues that resulted from the division of the nation, and to convene the Inter-Korean Red Cross Meeting to discuss and solve various issues including the reunion of separated families. In this vein, South and North Korea agreed to proceed with reunion programs for the separated families on the occasion of the National Liberation Day of August 15 this year.
  • South and North Korea agreed to actively implement the projects previously agreed in the 2007 October 4 Declaration, in order to promote balanced economic growth and co-prosperity of the nation. As a first step, the two sides agreed to adopt practical steps towards the connection and modernization of the railways and roads on the eastern transportation corridor as well as between Seoul and Sinuiju for their utilization.

2. South and North Korea will make joint efforts to alleviate the acute military tension and practically eliminate the danger of war on the Korean Peninsula. Alleviating the military tension and eliminating the danger of war is a highly significant challenge directly linked to the fate of the Korean people and also a vital task in guaranteeing their peaceful and stable lives.

  • South and North Korea agreed to completely cease all hostile acts against each other in every domain, including land, air and sea, that are the source of military tension and conflict. In this vein, the two sides agreed to transform the demilitarized zone into a peace zone in a genuine sense by ceasing as of May 1 this year all hostile acts and eliminating their means, including broadcasting through loudspeakers and distribution of leaflets, in the areas along the Military Demarcation Line.
  • South and North Korea agreed to devise a practical scheme to turn the areas around the Northern Limit Line in the West Sea into a maritime peace zone in order to prevent accidental military clashes and guarantee safe fishing activities.
  • South and North Korea agreed to take various military measures to ensure active mutual cooperation, exchanges, visits and contacts. The two sides agreed to hold frequent meetings between military authorities, including the Defense Ministers Meeting, in order to immediately discuss and solve military issues that arise between them. In this regard, the two sides agreed to first convene military talks at the rank of general in May.

3. South and North Korea will actively cooperate to establish a permanent and solid peace regime on the Korean Peninsula. Bringing an end to the current unnatural state of armistice and establishing a robust peace regime on the Korean Peninsula is a historical mission that must not be delayed any further.

  • South and North Korea reaffirmed the Non-Aggression Agreement that precludes the use of force in any form against each other, and agreed to strictly adhere to this Agreement.
  • South and North Korea agreed to carry out disarmament in a phased manner, as military tension is alleviated and substantial progress is made in military confidence-building.
  • During this year that marks the 65th anniversary of the Armistice, South and North Korea agreed to actively pursue trilateral meetings involving the two Koreas and the United States, or quadrilateral meetings involving the two Koreas, the United States and China with a view to declaring an end to the War, turning the armistice into a peace treaty, and establishing a permanent and solid peace regime.
  • South and North Korea confirmed the common goal of realizing, through complete denuclearization, a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula. South and North Korea shared the view that the measures being initiated by North Korea are very meaningful and crucial for the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and agreed to carry out their respective roles and responsibilities in this regard. South and North Korea agreed to actively seek the support and cooperation of the international community for the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

The two leaders agreed, through regular meetings and direct telephone conversations, to hold frequent and candid discussions on issues vital to the nation, to strengthen mutual trust and to jointly endeavor to strengthen the positive momentum towards continuous advancement of inter-Korean relations as well as peace, prosperity and unification of the Korean Peninsula.

In this context, President Moon Jae-in agreed to visit Pyongyang this fall.

Panmunjeom Declaration for Peace, Prosperity and Unification of the Korean Peninsula

REMARKS: ‘I’m For This Summit’

May 2018
By Bill Richardson

The planned summit between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is good, important, and impressive, but it comes with a lot of risks. If the summit doesn’t succeed, the problem isn’t going to be a return to the status quo, where there was enormous tension, but something worse.

Bill Richardson, a former UN ambassador and Democratic governor of New Mexico, gives a keynote address at the Arms Control Association annual meeting April 19. (Photo: Allen Harris/Arms Control Association)My concern is that the United States must be prepared, that the president must be prepared, and I worry sometimes that he’s not very prepared. I’ve been to North Korea eight times, and the North Koreans are disciplined, they’re prepared, they’re very inflexible, and they’re very formal. When you negotiate with them, they have their talking points, they vent, they’re hostile. They want you to listen to them, to show respect. Then, you respond. The key is on the sidelines, the informal. That’s where you make a personal connection. That’s where, maybe, you make a deal with them on detainees, on return of remains of U.S. servicemen, on an issue relating to food. It’s always informal. They don’t make it at the negotiating table. For that, Trump needs to be patient, restrained, and prepared.

The North Koreans’ idea of negotiating is not about a quid pro quo. While for us it is a quid pro quo, a compromise, the North Koreans feel they have divine guidance tied to the grandfather, father, and now Kim. Their idea of a concession is to give you a little time until you arrive at their position.

Further, denuclearization means a different thing to each country. To some in Washington, denuclearization of the Korean peninsula means Kim hands over his missile systems and his nuclear weapons, and he allows inspections to check that the regime is keeping its word. To the North Koreans, it means mutual steps, including requiring the United States to take down the nuclear umbrella over allies South Korea and Japan. Need to make a distinction between halting and ceasing their nuclear program, which is on the table, and disarming their existing arsenal, which I doubt is really on the table.

The danger of this summit comes from unrealistic expectations. The North Koreans are not going to hand over the keys to their kingdom. I believe that Trump is taking a gamble, but it is the correct gamble. I am for this summit. I am also for the meeting that the CIA Director Mike Pompeo had with the North Korean leader. Kim’s meeting with Pompeo has paved the way, I believe, for a positive summit. Trump has invested a lot in this summit, and so has Kim. The summit has to produce some results.

I think what we need is to keep expectations manageable. What is realistic? One, the return of the three detained Americans. I think that is a deliverable that would happen at the summit. Two, something that is very important to me, the return of remains of our soldiers from the Korean War. I brought seven remains back as an envoy for President George W. Bush in 2007. There are about 5,300 still in North Korea, and there are a lot of families out there that want to see these remains come home. Three, hopefully some South Korean-North Korean family reunifications and movement on human rights, which are doable. I hope that happens. Finally, on the nuclear side, I think we’ve got to set up a process of negotiation. The deal that the North Koreans will likely agree to includes halting and ceasing their nuclear and missile programs, in return for significant adjustments to the U.S. presence on the peninsula, including military exercises, sanction relief, and engagement. I’ve seen talk of a timeline of 2020, which may be a bit unrealistic. During this process of negotiations, a freeze on nuclear and missile tests needs to be in effect. I think sanctions have been working, and I give credit to China. I think they have been serious this time.

I think Kim has an endgame. I don’t know what it is. He is a rational actor who has been underestimated. I think, in the end, the North Koreans want something of acceptability in the international community, and they’ve always wanted direct negotiations with the United States. They got that. That’s why it’s so important for this summit to succeed.

Bill Richardson, a former UN ambassador and Democratic governor of New Mexico, has been an envoy to North Korea on multiple occasions. This is adapted from remarks April 19 at the annual meeting of the Arms Control Association in Washington.

The planned Trump-Kim summit is good, important, and impressive, but it comes with a lot of risks, says former U.S. envoy Bill Richardson.

‘Denuclearization’ Poses Summit Challenge

May 2018
By Kelsey Davenport

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and U.S. President Donald Trump have agreed to negotiate “denuclearization” at their planned summit, but different expectations for what that means could complicate or even derail their talks.

Stepping back from the personal insults and threats of nuclear devastation hurled at one another just months ago, the two leaders have surprised the world with gestures to ease the way to what would be the first-ever meeting between a sitting U.S. president and a leader of isolated, communist North Korea. Most notably, Kim announced on April 21 that North Korea will “discontinue” nuclear tests and long-range missile tests, close its nuclear test site, not transfer nuclear weapons and technology to other countries or groups, and refrain from using nuclear weapons unless threatened.

In a photo provided by the White House, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is shown shaking hands with then-CIA Director Mike Pompeo, who secretly flew to Pyongyang during Easter weekend to lay the groundwork for the anticipated summit meeting between Kim and President Donald Trump. (Photo: The White House via Getty Images)Those steps by the Kim regime, however welcome, fall short of what the United States has considered to be denuclearization. The Trump administration regards denuclearization as meaning North Korea “no longer having nuclear weapons that can be used in warfare against any of our allies,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said on April 22.

Although administration officials have not been specific, they likely want Kim to dismantle his considerable nuclear weapons infrastructure, which includes warheads, delivery systems, production of fissile material, and weapons research laboratories that together have been a source of national pride and regime security. Measures to ensure that North Korea is not cheating would require elaborate verification provisions and monitoring by international inspectors.

For its part, Pyongyang views denuclearization as a two-sided process that includes U.S. nuclear weapons that are part of Washington’s core defense commitment to allies South Korea and Japan.

This definitional mismatch increases the likelihood that both sides are entering talks with unrealistic expectations.

The Trump national security team has not publicly detailed its approach, but past U.S. administrations have called for “complete, verifiable, and irreversible dismantlement” of North Korea’s nuclear program to achieve the goal of a Korean peninsula free of nuclear weapons. This concept, known as CVID, was a principal U.S. demand during the multiparty negotiations with North Korea over its nuclear program from 2003 to 2009, known as the six-party talks.

UN Security Council resolutions on North Korea similarly describe denuclearization. Dating back to 2006, when the council passed Resolution 1718 in response to North Korea’s first nuclear test, the body declared that North Korea “shall abandon all nuclear weapons and existing nuclear programmes in a complete, verifiable, and irreversible manner.”

CVID also has roots in the January 1992 South-North Joint Declaration on the Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, in which Pyongyang and Seoul agreed not to “test, manufacture, produce, receive, possess, store, deploy or use nuclear weapons” or to “possess nuclear reprocessing and uranium enrichment facilities.” The U.S. decision to withdraw tactical nuclear weapons deployed in South Korea in 1991 helped pave the way for the joint declaration the following year.

For Pyongyang, reportedly, denuclearization must include the removal of U.S. nuclear and strategic assets from South Korea, a commitment not to deploy nuclear and strategic assets during military exercises, and a guarantee that the United States will not conduct a nuclear attack. It is not clear what if any inspections North Korea would insist on to verify the absence of nuclear weapons and strategic assets from the peninsula.

North Korea is also looking for other, related changes, including a peace treaty, lifting of international sanctions, and some form of guarantee against U.S. efforts for regime change.

North Korea’s nuclear-related conditions are less specific and onerous when compared to past instances when it has defined denuclearization. In July 2016, North Korea said that the “denuclearization being called for” applies to the “whole Korean peninsula and this includes the dismantlement of nukes in South Korea and its vicinity.” (See ACT, September 2016.)

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un (L) and South Korean President Moon Jae-in (R) embrace after signing the Panmunjom Declaration during their Inter-Korean Summit on April 27 at the Peace House in Panmunjom, South Korea.  (Photo: Korea Summit Press Pool/Getty Images)Specifically, North Korea called in 2016 for disclosure of any U.S. nuclear weapons in South Korea, guarantees the United States will not redeploy nuclear weapons in South Korea, assurance it will not conduct a nuclear strike on North Korea, and withdrawal of U.S. troops authorized to use nuclear weapons. Although the United States does not deploy nuclear weapons in South Korea, South Korea and Japan are covered by the U.S. extended nuclear deterrent, and strategic assets are used in joint military drills.

Trump has claimed incorrectly that North Korea’s agreement to talk about denuclearization and its April 21 pledge constitutes an agreement to denuclearize. In response to the announcement, Trump tweeted that “we haven’t given up anything and they have agreed to denuclearization (so great for World), site closure, and no more testing!” Another tweet said that “only time will tell” if things will work out with Pyongyang.

North Korea has not made any public commitment to give up existing nuclear weapons, which Kim in his statement to ruling party officials called a “powerful treasured sword for defending peace.” North Korea is estimated to have assembled 10 to 20 nuclear warheads and to have the fissile material for an estimated 30 to 60 nuclear weapons, as well as advanced chemical and biological weapons programs.

Kim’s pledge is a new and positive commitment, but North Korea has hinted previously it would be willing to take such limited steps. In his new year’s address, Kim laid the groundwork for a suspension, stating that North Korea had completed its nuclear and missile programs.

How North Korea’s shorter-range, nuclear-capable ballistic missiles fit into the denuclearization negotiations is also an open question. Although the promised moratorium on testing intercontinental ballistic missiles may satisfy the United States, it is unlikely to be enough for regional allies, notably Japan, given that North Korea’s short- and medium-range missile systems put that country within range.

Japanese President Shinzo Abe, during an April 17 meeting with Trump at Mar-a-Lago, emphasized the importance of negotiations covering all missile systems, as well as other weapons of mass destruction, such as North Korea’s large stockpiles of chemical weapons.

According to an April 18 White House statement, Trump and Abe raised the bar for the negotiations, stating that North Korea “needs to abandon all weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missiles programs.”

Trump and Kim may have different views as to what precisely is up for negotiation.

North Korea Urged to Sign CTBT

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s statement announcing the closing of the Punggye-ri nuclear test site has led to calls for Pyongyang to sign and ratify the 1996 Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). Federica Mogherini, the EU foreign policy chief, noted in a statement that Kim’s announcement was a positive “long-sought-after” step toward several disarmament commitments and the ratification of the CTBT. Lassina Zerbo, the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) executive secretary, called for North Korea to consider signing and ratifying the CTBT, noting that a legally binding treaty is the only way to “solidify the moratorium on nuclear testing.” The CTBTO “stands ready to assist,” he said in an statement April 21, and some experts have proposed having the body engage in confidence-building site visits to Punggye-ri. —SHERVIN TAHERAN

North Korea Urged to Sign CTBT

Trump Agrees to Summit With North Korea’s Kim

April 2018
By Kelsey Davenport

Managing expectations for what constitutes success will be a key challenge for the United States if U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un meet as anticipated next month.

Although offering an opportunity to reduce the threat posed by North Korea’s nuclear weapons, a summit carries substantial risks, particularly because it would not be preceded by months of lower-level diplomatic preparation. There is little way to predict the course of any substantive discussions and the personal interaction between the two men, one a newcomer to international diplomacy who carries the mantle of U.S. power and the other a third-generation leader of an isolated, impoverished Communist nation armed with nuclear weapons.

A South Korean soldier walks past a television screen showing pictures of U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, at a railway station in Seoul on March 9, 2018. Trump agreed on March 8 to a historic first meeting with the North Korean leader. (Photo: JUNG YEON-JE/AFP/Getty Images)If critics of diplomacy, such as newly appointed U.S. national security adviser John Bolton, do not view a summit as making enough progress toward North Korean denuclearization, they could use the outcome as a reason to urge Trump to abandon talks and pursue a military option.

Trump confirmed his willingness to participate in a summit in response to an invitation conveyed by South Korean national security adviser Chung Eui-yong, who met with Kim in Pyongyang before flying to Washington. When Chung told reporters at the White House on March 8 that Trump accepted the invitation, he said that Kim is “committed to denuclearization” and will refrain from further nuclear and missile tests.

Chung said Trump looked forward to meeting with Kim by May “to achieve permanent denuclearization.”

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders confirmed on March 8 that Trump was willing to meet with Kim and that he “expects North Korea to start putting action to these words that were conveyed via the South Koreans” regarding denuclearization. She said Trump is not willing to reward North Korea just for talking.

Chung and Sanders each reiterated that sanctions pressure will remain in place in the interim and that Kim understood that joint U.S.-South Korean military exercises would continue as planned. The exercises, delayed due to the 2018 Winter Olympics held in South Korea, are set to take place in April. In the past, Kim has viewed joint exercises as provocations and proof of the “U.S. hostile policy” toward his country.

Kim’s invitation for a summit with Trump came as a surprise, and there remained some uncertainty about whether it will take place. The two leaders traded insults in 2017, and U.S. Vice President Mike Pence canceled a meeting with the North Korean delegation during a trip to South Korea for the Olympics. (See ACT, March 2018.)

Chinese President Xi Jinping escorts North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at a welcoming ceremony March 26 in Beijing. China's Xinhua news agency said that Kim confirmed his willingness to meet with U.S. President Donald Trump, although the report did not confirm the anticipated May timeframe. Kim said "it is our consistent stand to be committed to denuclearization on the peninsula" in accordance with the will of his late father and grandfather, according to the March 28 Xinhua report. (Photo: AFP/Getty Images)South Korea, however, built on the Olympic spirit that led to North and South Korea fielding a joint team and sent a high-level delegation to Pyongyang in early March. The two states are also planning a summit between their leaders for April that will include discussions over North Korea’s nuclear program and could help lay the groundwork for a Trump-Kim summit. South Korean President Moon Jae-in is planning to travel to Washington after his meeting with Kim.

Managing expectations for a summit may be complicated by Bolton taking office before the meeting. Three days before he was named to succeed Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, Bolton in an interview with Radio Free Asia described himself as “skeptical” about North Korean intentions and warned that a summit could be a “very short meeting” if Kim is not prepared to move on denuclearization. Although the cautious McMaster allowed that a limited strike in North Korea was an option, Bolton has been a leading voice for pre-emptive military action against North Korea and Iran in order to eliminate their nuclear weapons capabilities and bring about regime change.

Further, Trump may hear similar views from outgoing CIA Director Mike Pompeo, his nominee to replace fired Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, whose early advocacy of diplomacy toward North Korea had been undercut by Trump. Pompeo, a strong critic of the Iran nuclear deal, said on March 11 on CBS’s “Face the Nation” that Trump will demand “the complete, verifiable, irreversible denuclearization of North Korea.”

In preparation for a summit, the Trump administration will need to consider what the United States is willing to put on the table. That could include easing current sanctions or holding off on new ones, scaling back provocative elements of U.S.-South Korean joint military exercises, and refraining from actions that North Korea views as hostile, such as flying B-1 bombers north of the demilitarized zone that separates North and South Korea.

It is unlikely that Kim will agree to give up North Korea’s nuclear weapons at a summit, but he could recommit to denuclearization as a long-term goal and take steps that would decrease tensions and reduce the threat posed by the North’s nuclear program. Steps such as agreeing to continue regular talks, establish clearer lines of communication, and work toward a freeze on nuclear and missile tests and fissile material production could contribute to stability in the region.

Critics such as Bolton may view these steps as insufficient and use the failure to achieve denuclearization quickly as an argument against further diplomacy. In February, Bolton in an opinion column in The Wall Street Journal advocated a pre-emptive military strike, arguing that it is “perfectly legitimate for the United States to respond to the current ‘necessity’ posed by North Korea’s nuclear weapons by striking first." Previously, he has asserted that the “only diplomatic option left is to end the regime in North Korea by effectively having the South take it over.”

Bolton has disrupted negotiations with North Korea in the past. When serving at the State Department under President George W. Bush in 2002, he used the discovery of North Korea’s illicit uranium-enrichment program as a reason to kill the 1994 Agreed Framework between the United States and North Korea. Although the uranium enrichment violated the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and needed to be addressed, it was outside the scope of the Agreed Framework, which had successfully halted North Korea’s plutonium production.

Bolton wrote in his memoirs that evidence of the illicit uranium enrichment was “the hammer I had been looking for to shatter the Agreed Framework.”

Will talks ease tensions or set the stage for U.S. military strikes?

The Wrong Choice for National Security Advisor



For Immediate Release: March 23, 2018

Media Contacts: Daryl G. Kimball, executive director, (202) 463-8270 ext. 107; Kingston Reif, director for disarmament policy, (202) 463-8270 ext. 104

(Washington, D.C.)—The United States already faces an array of complex and dangerous foreign policy challenges that require pragmatic decision and sober diplomatic engagement with American allies and foes alike.

With the choice of John Bolton as his National Security Advisor, President Donald Trump has chosen someone with a record of a hostile attitude toward multilateral security and arms control agreements and effective international institutions designed to advance U.S. national security and international peace and security.

Bolton's extreme views could tilt the malleable Mr. Trump in the wrong direction on critical decisions affecting the future of the Iran nuclear deal, the North Korean nuclear crisis, and the strained U.S. relationship with Russia, among other issues.

Bolton is a nonproliferation hawk, but he has a disturbing and bellicose record of choosing confrontation rather than dialogue, politicizing intelligence to fit his worldview, and aggressively undermining treaties and negotiations designed to reduce weapons-related security threats. 

  • Bolton has long advocated for bombing Iran instead of pursuing negotiations to curb Iran’s nuclear program and he has called on the United States to abrogate the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, which is working to verifiably block Iran’s pathways to the bomb. 
  • In the early 2000s, Bolton was among those in the George W. Bush administration who opposed further dialogue with North Korea which allowed North Korea to advance its nuclear program and test nuclear weapons. More recently, has argued that the United States should launch a “preventive attack” on North Korea, which would result in a catastrophic war. His approach runs counter to Mr. Trump’s own stated policy of using sanctions pressure and diplomatic engagement, including a summit with Kim Jong-un, to halt and reverse North Korea's nuclear and missile programs.
  • Bolton has repeatedly criticized the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) with Russia, which is one of the few bright spots in the troubled U.S.-Russia relationship and continues to enjoy strong support from the U.S. military. Last year Bolton called the treaty “an execrable deal.”
  • While undersecretary of state for arms control and international security during the George W. Bush administration, Bolton cherry-picked the findings of intelligence community assessments of that country’s weapons of mass destruction capabilities, and was a key player in making the Bush administration’s flawed case for the war in Iraq—a war that Donald Trump has correctly ridiculed as a catastrophic American foreign policy blunder.

If Bolton succeeds in imposing his worldview on Donald Trump’s improvisational and impulsive foreign policy approach, we could be entering in a period of crisis and confrontation.

In particular, if Bolton convinces Trump to unilaterally violate the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action in May when the U.S. is due to renew sanctions waivers, it would not only open the door to the re-emergence of Iran as a nuclear weapons proliferation risk, but it would undermine President Trump’s very tentative diplomatic opening with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

In the next year or so, Trump will need to decide whether or not to engage in talks with Russia about extending the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, which is due to expire in 2021. Without the treaty, there would be no verifiable limits on the world’s two largest nuclear arsenals for the first time since 1972.

We can ill-afford two nuclear proliferation crises, as well as abandoning a key brake on the growing risks of renewed U.S. and Russian nuclear competition and arms racing. 

Congress will need to play a stronger role to guard against further chaos and confusion in U.S. foreign policy, prevent the White House from blundering into unwise and catastrophic military conflicts, and to halt further degradation of the credibility of the United States as a responsible global leader.


Press release on the appointment of John Bolton as National Security Advisor

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