U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo leaves July 5 for North Korea. The trip comes after signs the country is expanding a facility to build some long-range missiles.
That report came in stark contrast to the message from the Trump administration earlier this week. White House National Security Advisor John Bolton said North Korea’s weapons of mass destruction could be almost fully dismantled within a year. So where do things stand?
William Inboden is a professor at the LBJ School of Public Affairs and a veteran of strategic planning on the National Security Council at the White House. He says it is not surprising at all to hear reports that North Korea is continuing to invest in its weapons programs.
Inboden says North Korea’s actions show that country has advanced much further in its weapons of mass production program than previously known, that the North Korean leadership believes those weapons are essential for its survival, and that the leadership is willing to consistently “lie and cheat” on its agreements.
While Inboden says it is possible North Korea could change its tune, he says those who have followed the issue closely are not surprised by the latest revelations.
“I hope it’s a reality check for the Trump administration that they’ve got a more difficult task ahead of them than the happy talk,” Inboden says.
Still Inboden agrees with Defense Secretary James Mattis that there should be no expectation that North Korea would begin dismantling its nuclear weapons program already as detailed negotiations have not begun.
“The first step the North Koreans need to take is a declaration of what all their weapons of mass destruction and missile programs are,” Inboden says. “Where are the stockpiles? What do they have? They’ve never done that before. That would be the first step in even beginning to conclude any sort of diplomatic agreement.”
But, Inboden says, President Trump has been giving up all the leverage the United States has in this negotiation and that agreeing to end certain military practices with South Korea was a “dangerous concession.”
“Secretary Pompeo, Ambassador Bolton, they are both very intelligent, experienced men,” Inboden says. “And yet they have really had their knees cut out from under them by the President in terms of — they have much less leverage to actually be negotiating with the North Koreans and trying to get some sort of meaningful agreement here.”
Written by Laura Rice.