On the subject of despot Kim Jong Un and the rogue country of North Korea, President Donald Trump has not minced words. In his first address to the United Nations on Sept. 19 last year, Trump called Kim “Rocket Man” on a “suicide mission” and vowed to “totally destroy North Korea” if forced to do so.
Trump’s actions against North Korea have not been lenient. Last August, with a strong push from the United States, the U.N. Security Council voted 15–0 to impose strict new sanctions on Pyongyang. In late November, Trump put North Korea back on the list of state sponsors of terror for its support of “international terrorism, including assassinations on foreign soil.”
Trump’s strategy of “maximum pressure and engagement” did not win him any love from the left. His North Korea policies were called a replica of Richard Nixon’s “madman theory.” Following his speech at the U.N., Trump was compared to the “mad king” in the television show “Game of Thrones.” Some were worried that Trump’s bluster may lead to a nuclear war.
The opposite has just happened. On March 6, South Korea announced that Kim Jong Un was willing to consider giving up nuclear weapons if the regime’s security could be guaranteed. The North also agreed to suspend missile tests during the denuclearization negotiations. Even more stunningly, Trump accepted an invitation from Kim. The two are expected to meet by May.
The Rocket Man has apparently just caved in, handing Trump an initial victory. But is it real?
There are signs that the U.N. sanctions have put a severe strain on the hermit kingdom’s economy. This is probably the primary reason that Kim was forced back to the negotiation table. China, North Korea’s largest trading partner, halted oil exports and stopped importing iron, coal, and lead from the country last November, according to Reuters. Kim’s military had to reduce the scale of its annual winter exercises, likely due to fuel shortages. North Korea’s foreign currency reserve is presumably being depleted and could possibly run out in the second half of the year.
The immense pressure from the United States may have worked.
If history can offer guidance, Pyongyang can’t be trusted. Resorting to blackmail is a family trait of the Kims. In the early 1990s, Kim’s father, Kim Jong Il, started a nuclear program to make plutonium, a fissile material that is mainly used for nuclear weapons. President Bill Clinton offered North Korea fuel oils and light water reactors for power generation. In exchange, Kim Jong Il agreed to shut down the plutonium reactor.
In 2002, it was discovered that North Korea cheated. Instead of plutonium, the regime developed highly enriched uranium, another fissile material whose only use is in atomic bombs. The United States confronted the Kim Jong Il regime and cut off its supply of fuels. In response, North Korea restarted the plutonium reactor. Before long, U.S. intelligence assessed that the country was using plutonium in its nuclear weapons program.
Kim Jong Il managed to fool the international community a second time after North Korea’s 2006 nuclear test. The regime ostensibly agreed to give up its nuclear programs for a package of food, fuel, and other aid. The result? North Korea detonated a more powerful atomic bomb in 2009.
Kim Jong Un may simply be borrowing a page from his father’s playbook. Under heavy pressure, he has promised concessions, even extending an olive branch to his foes. What Kim really wants is international aid and the loosening of the crippling sanctions. Once his demands are satisfied, he will refuse to keep his end of the bargain. North Korea’s nuclear blackmail game will start over again.
The Trump administration should discuss denuclearization with North Korea. To ensure the talks are a success, the United States and the international community need to maintain maximum pressure on the regime.
China, the enabler and suzerain of the North, is all too eager to resuscitate the Kim regime. South Korea is so gullible that it can’t wait to shower the North with kindness, despite its constant threat to turn Seoul, the South’s capital, into a sea of fire. If the United States relents on sanctions, it will play right into Kim Jong Un’s hands.
If there is any suspicion North Korea is not serious or sincere about the denuclearization, the United States should walk away from the talks immediately. More sanctions should be imposed. So far, that seems to be the only language Kim Jong Un understands.
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.