North Korean experts said Thursday it would be a mistake for US President Joe Biden to build on the 2018 Singapore agreement to address North Korea’s denuclearization. South Korean President Moon Jae-in has suggested Washington start re-engaging with Pyongyang based on the deal.
“What the administration should strive for instead is a comprehensive, well-crafted agreement such as the arms control agreements we had with the Soviet Union,” Bruce Klingner, a senior research fellow for Northeast Asia at the Heritage Foundation, told Radio Free Asia. Klingner added those agreements had robust verification requirements, none of which was seen in the previous agreements with North Korea.
Critics describe the US-North Korea summits in Singapore and Hanoi in 2018 and 2019, respectively, as vague on details. The two nuclear negotiation sessions between President Donald Trump and leader Kim Jong-un, and the working-level talks that followed them, fell apart, as Washington and Pyongyang failed to work out differences over which steps should come first: US concessions or North Korean disarmament.
Soo Kim, a policy analyst at Rand Corp. and a former CIA analyst, told RFA that the Singapore agreement lacked substance. North Korea could use the agreement to hurl unfounded accusations at the US, as it had done several times in the past. But Biden does not need to disavow the Singapore deal, said Robert Gallucci, who served as the chief US negotiator for the North Korean nuclear crisis in 1994.
“The message is that there is no need to run from the Singapore summit, but there are lots of reasons not to regard it as a road map or blueprint for the diplomatic work that needs to be done,” he told RFA. Frank Aum, a senior expert at the US Institute of Peace who served as a senior adviser on North Korea to the secretary of defense, told RFA the Singapore deal was a sign of reciprocity that Biden can use to his advantage to remind Kim Jong-un of the commitment to disarmament.