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Opinion - North Korean hiccup: US should apply 'Libyan model' on North Korea

A file pic Photograph: (Zee News Network)

WION New Delhi, Delhi, India May 17, 2018, 06.19 PM (IST) Surya Gangadharan

You could call it the great Korean hiccup, with the caveat that these things have happened before. The apparent trigger was a week-long Air Force exercise involving the US and South Korea.  
 
The North slammed it in its typical fashion:  A grim news reader on state-run television warning that "the United States will have to undertake careful deliberations about the fate of the planned North Korea-US summit in light of this provocative military ruckus jointly conducted with the South Korean authorities."
 
The North Korean statement was actually a double whammy!  

Earlier the North had suspended high-level official talks to be held on Wednesday.  The South had reason to be puzzled as Kim Jong-Un had indicated he understood why the US and South Korea held joint military exercises.  

The hint was he would not object but how does one explain the turnaround?
 
The pundits on the peninsula suspect Kim maybe opening his cards on the US demand for "unilateral de-nuclearisation".  Kim probably wanted to forewarn Trump on what to expect when they sit down for the June summit.    
 
The US responded cautiously, saying it had not heard anything from Seoul or Pyongyang and was proceeding according to the plan.  

Heather Nauert, State Department spokeswoman, had said: "we will continue to go ahead and plan the meeting between president Trump and Kim Jong-Un."
 
What does the mercurial "rocket man" want? Clearly, he wants to keep his nuclear weapons, his refusal to spell out his views on de-nuclearisation so far may have been deliberate, intended to reap the harvest of goodwill generated by his decision to stop nuclear testing.   
 
Now, rocket man Kim is apparently willing to play.  Fittingly he began in Punggye-Ri, where he has so far tested six nuclear devices. 
 
Satellite images of the Punggye-Ri test site in the eastern part of the country show some dismantling work in progress but this has not been extended to the nuclear reactor and uranium enrichment facility in Yongbyon or the missile factory at the military base in Hwange province.

The US is clear about what it wants, a point reiterated by national security adviserJohnn Bolton who said: "what ports should American freighters sail into and what airbases should American cargo planes land at so that we can dismantle your nuclear weapons program, put it in those planes and boats and sail it back to America to put it at oak ridge, Tennessee."

Bolton was referring to the Libyan model, the terms and conditions under which in 2003 and 2004, Libya was stripped of its nuclear material, equipment and uranium in return for sanctions being eased.  
 
"Rocket man" may want something more tangible from the US such as withdrawal of all US forces from South Korea and a nuclear guarantee which is exactly what nuclear guarantee means is not clear maybe a promise his regime will not be targeted, its survival is guaranteed, an end to all sanctions and so on.  
 
North Korea has many advantages unlike Libya, its nuclear weapons programme is advanced and it has developed and demonstrated its weapons including those that can reach the US.  

Kim will also ensure any "de-nuclearization" is phased out with access to sites controlled by him.  A deal on de-nuclearization could start with a moratorium on further tests, which Kim announced last month.  

It could be followed by a freeze on the production of nuclear materials and the rollback of warhead stocks.  This was roughly the experience with the Libyan model.  Let's see what shape the Korean model could take but be prepared for anything even a complete reversal of what we've seen so far.

(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed above are the personal views of the author and do not reflect the views of ZMCL)

Surya Gangadharan

Surya Gangadharan is managing producer and senior editor at WION

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