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Expert: US appears to have lowered the bar on North Korea denuclearization

By CLAUDIA GRISALES | STARS AND STRIPES Published: June 5, 2018

WASHINGTON — Days ahead of the summit between President Donald Trump and North Korea’s Kim Jong Un, two former top U.S. advisers urge the president not to give up crucial demands during the high-stakes meeting in Singapore.

The on-again, off-again June 12 summit now appears to have softened the Trump administration’s demands for North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons, the two former advisers told a Senate panel Tuesday.

“We are in a materially different place than where we were a year ago, or even six months ago … tensions are materially down,” Joseph Yun, a senior adviser at the federally funded think tank U.S. Institute for Peace, testified before a Senate Foreign Relations subcommittee hearing. “Related to that, however, is the concern now on whether the administration is now placing the bar too low on denuclearization.”

Yun, who left his post as U.S. special representative for North Korea policy in March, and Victor Cha, who was recently considered a nominee to become U.S. ambassador to South Korea, argued Tuesday that the summit’s ultimate goal still should be Kim’s steps towards complete denuclearization, which would entail dismantlement of nuclear weapons, removal of all fissile materials and freezing production capacity.

Cha, a senior adviser at the Washington think tank the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said the United States must be leery of giving up too much, too soon, in its negotiations. It should aim for new security assurances for the United States, policies that facilitate broader U.S. strategic objectives in Asia, coordination with allies, support for a peace dialogue on the peninsula and requirements for North Korea to address its human rights abuses, he said.

“A summit is not a strategy, and a summit without a strategy is dangerous,” warned Cha, who in January was withdrawn from consideration to be a U.S. ambassador apparently after he disagreed with White House interest in a limited strike against North Korea. “The United States needs to have clear focus on our objectives in this negotiation and must stay closely aligned with Congress and with our allies on achieving these objectives.”

Cha said when asked what will be the outcome of the Trump-Kim summit – an agreement to full denuclearization or a failed meeting that leads to a new escalation of war threats – he sees a result that falls somewhere in the middle. That is, a plan that marks progress towards eventual denuclearization, but short of complete, verifiable and irreversible dismantlement along the lines of the Libya model, he said.

Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., warned regardless of the summit outcome, a U.S. military strike is not an option.

“There is no military solution to this problem. Direct diplomacy backed by economic pressure is the only result that will resolve the North Korea crisis,” said Markey, the ranking Democrat for the Senate Foreign Relations subcommittee on East Asia, the Pacific, and international cybersecurity policy. “While North Korea is coming to the table we have not yet compelled it to accept our definition of denuclearization – one where the Kim regime relinquishes its weapons and its means to produce more.”

Sen. James Risch, R-Idaho, disagreed. He said military options remain on the table.

“The choice for military solutions is not ours, it is his,” Risch said, referencing Kim. “He was told by the international community, by the president, what the red line was and what he could not do, and if he crossed that red line there was going be a military solution, not of our choosing. The cards are in his hands in that regard.”

grisales.claudia@stripes.com

Twitter: @cgrisales

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