With the second summit between US President Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un, leader of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), set to occur sometime next month, the US is preparing a special package of economic benefits — a carrot to try and lure North Korea into further moves toward denuclearization.
Despite Pyongyang having made substantial unilateral moves toward limiting its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile systems development since the June 12, 2018, summit, the US has not responded in kind, instead opting to increase economic pressure on the isolated socialist state with a new round of sanctions.
However, there are "guarantees that can be waved under Kim's nose to assure him of the pot of gold waiting for him on the other side of the rainbow," an anonymous source inside the State Department told the Washington Times for a Monday article. Those could include everything from a pure-cash escrow account to the return of seized state assets, and more.
The initiative is reportedly being spearheaded by Stephen Biegun, the special representative for North Korea appointed by Washington last year to serve as a direct liaison with Pyongyang.
"The logical move for the US to follow toward incentivizing Mr. Kim is to say, ‘Our allies and friends are willing to put money in a global bank account in escrow with your name on it, Chairman Kim, to be released in exchange for meaningful denuclearization steps,'" Patrick Cronin, the head of Asia-Pacific Security at the Hudson Institute in Washington, told the Times. "What those steps ultimately are, along with how much money is actually there, are things that can then be negotiated."
Nations that could contribute to such a fund include South Korea, Japan and the European Union, all of which also contributed to a similar package prepared in the early 1990s during a previous carrot-and-stick kind of negotiations over the DPRK's nuclear program in the aftermath of the collapse of the Soviet Union, the socialist country's primary patron. The money from Japan would likely equal the reparations package it paid Seoul in 1964 for decades of colonial rule, and would total $3 billion when adjusted for inflation, the Times noted.
The 1990s deal, known at the time as the "Agreed Framework," took place in the context of a horrific famine, known in North Korean history as "The Arduous March." The US extracted that deal by blackmailing Pyongyang with food aid, and it ultimately failed to reach a state of denuclearization, with the deal falling apart in the early 2000s as it slowly became apparent that DPRK had continued to enrich uranium for what it called "defensive" nuclear weapons.
In 2019, however, US intelligence doesn't see Pyongyang as willing to totally give up those "defensive" nuclear weapons. US Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats told a Senate panel Tuesday that "we currently assess that North Korea will seek to retain its WMD capabilities and is unlikely to completely give up its nuclear weapons and production capabilities because its leaders ultimately view nuclear weapons as critical to regime survival."
"Our assessment is bolstered by our observations of some activity that is inconsistent with full denuclearization," he said. However, Coats previously noted the substantial good-faith measures taken by Kim thus far, which have included destroying their primary nuclear weapons test facility and a major missile testing site.
Kim and his South Korean counterpart, President Moon Jae-in, have also taken unprecedented measures toward peace and reconciliation, signing an end-of-war declaration in September that ended the state of war in existence since 1950 and relaxing tensions along the demilitarized zone that separates the two Koreas, permitting travel, trade and tourism for the first time in decades.
Although think tanks like the Center for Strategic and International Studies have attempted to throw gum into the works of any prospective peace deal with the US, with contrived reports that Kim is violating previous agreements by maintaining or expanding certain missile bases or test facilities, the CSIS report from January 21 on Sino-Ri missile base nonetheless notes that the base "does not appear to be the subject of denuclearization negotiations between the United States and North Korea."