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DPRK Deja Vu

By Fraser Cameron

9 July 2018

‘We have seen it all before’ - was the judgement of veteran DPRK watcher, Victor Cha, after the DPRK began stonewalling during Mike Pompeo’s latest trip to Pyongyang. Cha was one of many experts who expressed disbelief at the paucity of the Singapore statement after the Trump-Kim summit. 

Trump was pleased at his photo op that he tweeted ‘there is no more nuclear threat from North Korea.’ At home he basked in a sudden surge in popularity. The great dealmaker had triumphed where his predecessors had failed. ‘Rocket Man’ was suddenly ‘a good guy.’ There was no longer any need for US-South Korea joint military exercises. Trump even agreed that these were ‘provocative’ – language used by the DPRK for years. 

But reality is now setting in. Pompeo had to wait until he was received in Pyongyang. There was no meeting with Kim. There was no progress in securing the remains of American war dead. And above all there was no agreement on a timetable for CVID – the complete, verifiable, irreversible denuclearisation. 

The DPRK sharply criticised the ‘gangster-like’ moves by the US, putting the DPRK under pressure with its one-sided approach and jeopardising the spirit of Singapore. 

It has become increasingly clear that the two sides have diametrically opposite views on what CVID should mean. For the US, it is a quick movement and then sanctions can be lifted. For the DPRK it is a long-drawn out process in which all nuclear weapons (and foreign troops) leave the peninsula. 

Trump’s national security advisor, John Bolton, was a long-standing critic of negotiating with the DPRK. One can only wonder what advice he is giving Trump now.