Speaking at the UN General Assembly, Ri Yong-ho, North Korea's foreign minister, said the blame for the deadlock in the denuclearization process is on Washington. He argued that it became the hostage of the internal political struggle in the US, which has seen some forces attacking Pyongyang to gain ground on their opponents.
Brian Becker, the national coordinator of the A.N.S.W.E.R. anti-war coalition, agrees that the Trump administration has been sending mixed signals to Pyongyang. "The US is playing its double game here," he said. The day after Trump said that there should not be any "rush" with denuclearization, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo vowed to put more pressure on the North until it denuclearizes.
Almost everyone except Trump wants war
However, Becker believes that the problem is even bigger than Trump's administration being a nest of anti-North Korea war hawks, like Pompeo, or National Security Adviser John Bolton, or US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley. With both major parties, the military and the intelligence community seeking to derail it, the process is effectively doomed.
The real reason this isn't going forward isn't simply the debate inside the Trump administration… there is almost a consensus between Democrats and Republicans, the Pentagon and the intelligence services and most of the Trump cabinet who actually don't want this to succeed.
Getting closer with China & Russia is the only solution
China and Russia have been advocating for sanctions relief for North Korea to reward the good will Kim Jong-un has shown in talks with Trump.
"Unfortunately, China and Russia are hemmed in, because they originally voted for those sanctions at the UN Security Council, and of course the US has a veto. So they are urging Washington government to take a different road, but Washington doesn't want or doesn't have to," Backer said.
Since these calls fall on deaf ears and there is no way around the US veto, it's time for North Korea and its neighbors to band together, he believes.
"What really needs to happen is that bilateral relations can strengthen between DPRK and China, DPRK and Russia and DPRK and South Korea. I think that is the road forward."
The maximum pressure approach that Washington is preaching as the way to irreversible denuclearization is missing the point, Becker believes. The sanctions have been "absolutely irrelevant," since Pyongyang is dismantling its nuclear program primarily to stop war games at its doorstep.
"The North Koreans have been consistent over the years. They have said from the beginning they're willing to suspend nuclear weapons tests and ICBM tests and make other concessions in return for the cancellation, or suspension, or a moratorium on the US war games with South Korea, that simulate the destruction or the annihilation of North Korea."
But while North Korea has kept its side of the bargain, the US made only "step A" and is not moving forward anymore, while demanding unilateral concessions from the North, Becker said.
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