Expert: North Korea is Using Trump Talks to Normalize Itself as Nuclear Power

Aug 7, 2019

An expert on Korean affairs says North Korea is far closer to its goal of normalizing itself than the U.S. is in its aim of denuclearizing the autocratic international pariah. 

When it comes to achieving peace on the Korean peninsula, Dr. Sue Li Terry, the Senior Fellow for the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said the U.S. and North Korea aren’t even having the same conversation. 

She said under the Trump administration, the U.S. is talking directly to Kim Jong-Un in an effort to spur denuclearization, but the North Koreans are pushing for the U.S. to withdraw the military force that has been stationed in South Korea as a deterrent for nearly 70 years.

“I think where we are is right now, North Korea is playing a game with obviously the United States. I think their game is to drag this out. And I think their goal is simple. They want to gain international acceptance of North Korea as a nuclear weapons power," she said.

In the process, she says actions like the summits in Singapore and Hanoi and President Trump crossing the DMZ into North Korea have only lent legitimacy to North Korea that it craves while offering no concrete steps forward in the peacemaking process.

“The Singapore declaration was an aspirational statement, right? What we got from North Korea is that they’re going to work towards denuclearization of the Korean peninsula," Terry said. "I work towards a lot of things every day and I don’t achieve them, okay? So we got more out of North Korea in the past."

She said while she can understand Trump’s desire to meet directly to Kim after the failure of hardline policies and multilateral agreements, she said the same problem ultimately unravels agreements with North Korea every time. 

"We forget that we actually have agreements with North Korea. We have [the] 2005 joint statement, we have [the] 2007 agreement, and all of that fell apart over verification," she said. 

Terry says Kim is ultimately far closer to achieving his goals of normalization than the U.S. is in its denuclearization aims.

Terry spoke at a foreign policy forum Monday at Bradley University in Peoria.