Radio Sputnik discussed this with Robert Winstanley-Chesters, research fellow at the Australian National University's College of Asia and the Pacific and managing editor at the European Journal of Korean Studies.
Sputnik: North Korea's Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho has said that the US is reluctant to declare a formal end to the Korean War. First of all, is that the case? Is the US able to declare an end to this war and if so, why is it reluctant to do so?
Robert Winstanley-Chesters: I remember at the time of the summit in June, it was speculated that, in fact, maybe Kim Jong-un and Donald Trump would agree to end the Korean War there and then. There was a lot of speculation at the time as to whether it was actually possible, given that North Korea wasn't in a war technically with the United States in the Korean War; it was a war with the forces of the United Nations.
It might have been that in order to end the war it would be necessary for all the other participants in the United Nations' forces in the Korean War, such as Turkey, the UK and Australia, to get together and engage in a process. They might all be needed to declare an end of the war. I think that the issue is that the United States sees a formal declaration of the end of the war as part of a long process with North Korea, including the denuclearization issues. Since they haven't got to that point yet, then they haven't got to the point where they're willing to do it.
Sputnik: What's your assessment of the current state of US-North Korean relations two months after the summit ended?
The fact that the United States and North Korea are still talking, that the secretary of state still finds it possible to meet the North Korean foreign minister, can't really be thought of as [being] as bad as it used to be. Perhaps you can still be slightly optimistic in comparison to where we were last year.
Sputnik: Could you elaborate on your comment, you mentioned that the US hasn't really got what it wants and North Korea hasn't got what it wants.
Robert Winstanley-Chesters: North Korean policy overall is guided by a desire to be seen as an equal partner with the United States and with any other nation in the field of world diplomacy. North Korea wants to sit down at the table with the United States one-on-one, as an equal partner, and to be taken seriously; and to seriously engage the US with its own issues on denuclearization.
The United States, obviously, sees denuclearization as the complete deconstruction of North Korea's nuclear capacity and capability in a verifiable way for all time, whereas North Korea, when it talks about denuclearization, also means the withdrawal of the US forces from South Korea, the withdrawal of the US nuclear umbrella from the Korean Peninsula, and the deconstruction of what it sees as America's threat against North Korea. In a sense, both sides are quite some way away from that.
I think what North Korea is most disappointed by is the fact that after the summit in Singapore between Kim Jong-un and Donald Trump, the North Koreans thought they had got the Americans to the point at which the Americans would take North Korea seriously as a partner in diplomacy, and that it would not do anything to damage its dignity or take a negative and hostile direction on the world stage. I'm not sure North Korea feels that's really happened.
Sputnik: What're your thoughts on the denuclearization question? Do you think that the leadership of North Korea is now having second thoughts?
I think North Korea said that it was going to get rid of one of its missile sites, and I think it has done that. But it didn't really agree to anything else whatsoever or come up with any timetable. I think that North Korea is waiting to see whether its key goal can be achieved and that's to be taken seriously as an equal partner in this. I'm not entirely sure it feels it's had that yet, so at the moment, of course, it's making sure it has all of the things still on the table.
The views and opinions expressed by the speaker do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.