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Monday, May 14, 2018

The US will help North Korea if it accepts denuclearization

Por Damian

The United States promised last Friday that it will help rebuild North Korea's economy, badly affected by sanctions, if the Kim Jong-un government agrees to eliminate its entire nuclear arsenal. "If North Korea takes important steps for a rapid denuclearization, the United States is prepared to work with North Korea to achieve prosperity", said Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

The official made the remarks two days after a trip to Pyongyang to finalize details of the summit between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, to be held on June 12 in Singapore.

The head of US diplomacy met Friday in Washington with the Minister of Foreign Affairs of South Korea, Kang Kyung-wha, with whom he agreed on the importance of eliminating the risk of nuclear weapons on the Korean peninsula. In that context, Pompeo noted Washington's willingness to contribute to the economic modernization of North Korea if the elimination of nuclear weapons is achieved.

Pompeo and Kang reinforced that to be acceptable, the process of eliminating the North Korean nuclear arsenal must be "total, permanent and verifiable".

Trump will receive the President of South Korea, Moon Jae-in, at the White House on May 22, with whom he will discuss details of the meeting with Kim. On Friday, Pompeo said he had good conversations with the North Korean leader, whom he considered a rational and much focused interlocutor.

"We have had good conversations, which involve deep problems, challenges, strategic decisions that Mr. Kim has in front of us", he said. He added that they discussed "the way he (Kim) wants to proceed and if he is willing to denuclearize in exchange for the guarantees we are ready to offer". According to Pompeo, the United States will demand "a robust verification program, a program that we can start with partners around the world and with which we can achieve results."

On Friday, the South Korean foreign minister said that the summit between Trump and Kim will be "a historic opportunity to resolve the North Korean nuclear issue, and ensure a lasting peace on the Korean peninsula."

This vision is shared not only by Trump and Kim but also by the president of South Korea, Moon Jae-in. "I think we have a shared vision of what we expect. And I think there is a complete agreement on what the objectives are", he said.

The war that broke out in 1950 between the North (supported by China and the Soviet Union) and South Korea (supported by the United States) reached a cessation of hostilities sealed in an armistice signed in July 1953. However, the two halves of the Korean peninsula never signed a formal peace agreement and US troops are still stationed in South Korea. For this reason, the idea of "denuclearization" seems to have subtly different meanings for Washington and Pyongyang.

As Pompeo specified, that idea means the rapid elimination of North Korea's entire nuclear arsenal. However, Pyongyang refers to the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula, in direct reference to the US military presence in South Korea. The continuity of that US military presence will be one of the central themes of the meeting between Trump and Moon.