Nuclear Program Is a 'Trump Card' Pyongyang Might Not Let Go Of – Analyst

© REUTERS / Pool via ReutersU.S. President Donald Trump and North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un shake hands during the signing of a document after their summit at the Capella Hotel on Sentosa island in Singapore June 12, 2018
U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un shake hands during the signing of a document after their summit at the Capella Hotel on Sentosa island in Singapore June 12, 2018 - Sputnik International
The United States’ Defence Secretary, James Mattis, has announced that, as of yet, he has not heard of any efforts made by North Korea toward dismantling its nuclear weapons program since the historic meeting held between President Donald Trump and Pyongyang’s leader, Kim Jong-un.

Sputnik spoke to Tom Harper, an Asia Pacific specialist from Surrey University, to find out if it is at all unrealistic to expect immediate action.

In this photo provided by South Korea Defense Ministry, South Korea's Hyunmoo II Missile system, left, and U.S. Army Tactical Missile System, right, fire missiles during the combined military exercise between the two countries against North Korea at an undisclosed location in South Korea, Saturday, July 29, 2017. - Sputnik International
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Sputnik: US Defence Secretary James Mattis has said that he’s not aware of any steps that North Korea has made toward dismantling its nuclear facilities as of yet, but realistically, should we expect to see such moves yet?

Tom Harper: Well as I’ve said in the past, I think the nuclear programme is one of North Korea’s big trump cards, so I think they’d be careful about truly letting it go, especially after Bolton’s comments about the ‘Libya model’ serving as one for North Korea, so I think they’d be a bit […].

But also at the same time I think we have to question what the state of it is because after all there’s been the claim that they’ve been persuing this because of the collapse of their facilities, so I think either way we aren’t going to get a 100 percent clear picture.

U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during a news conference after his meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at the Capella Hotel on Sentosa island in Singapore June 12, 2018 - Sputnik International
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Sputnik: Victor Cha, a former director for Asian Affairs at the National Security Council has said that the US tried, but ultimately failed, to persuade Pyongyang to include language in the joint statement with the US committing to “complete, verifiable and irreversible” disarmament for 2020, do you therefore see this all working out as Washington would like it to in the long run?

Tom Harper: Well I think what is interesting about it is that they sort of insisted that Pyongyang makes the first move, insisting that they denuclearise first and then they will make the concession.

For example, what’s being used as the condition, is that in return for denuclearisation, the US will stop their exercises in South Korea. So yes, I think again it’s alsmost a game of chicken in some ways as in who is going to blink first. So yes, I think ultimately that is one of the big flaws of the agreement.

Sputnik: So what do you see the next steps being from here in terms of reciprocal measures?

Tom Harper: I think they’ve got an interest in keeping the dialogue going because after all I think North Korea want to improve their economy more, and there’s been a promise about that in the papers over the past few days.

Also, I think Trump has an interest in keeping this going because I think it could potentially be his international legacy. So I think he’d be very loath to let any players take that. So I think they’ve got an interest in keeping this going for now at least.

This satellite image released and notated by Airbus Defense & Space and 38 North on April 12, 2017, shows the Punggye-ri nuclear test site in North Korea - Sputnik International
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Sputnik: Well that’s part of the point, isn’t it? Many, especially Trump’s critics, argue that this is all just showmanship and really he’s only interested in his legacy and not the substance of this deal in terms of how feasible it is – what do you make of that?

Tom Harper: Well I think one of the best terms for it is that it’s a form of political theatre.

So I think it’s the same with action on Syria and the case of the possibility of the trade war with China. I think it’s playing to that sort of idea of putting on an image, so to speak, and I think this is just one part of it.

The views expressed in this article are those of Tom Harper and do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

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