White House: we’re not naive about N. Korea


(CNN) – President Trump could be preparing to take a very tough approach if, and when, he comes face-to-face with Kim Jong-un.

Trump Administration officials now say the goal of a summit with Kim is to get the North Korean dictator to start taking apart the nuclear arsenal that he’s spent years building up.

Assistant to the President Marc Short stated, “Our aim is full denuclearization.”

When Short was asked: “What does full denuclearization mean to this administration, what is full denuclearization?” He replied, “It’s dismantling their nuclear arsenal.”

“And no concessions at all or benefits from the U.S. until that occurs? Can you state that as…” Short replied, “I think that should be something the NSC states for you, Major, but that is my understanding, yes.”

The Wall Street Journal reports the president will ask Kim to act quickly to dismantle his nuclear weapons, if and when they meet.

At the same time, administration officials said Monday night Kim’s new promise to freeze his nuclear and missile tests isn’t enough to get the U.S. to lift economic sanctions on the regime.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said, “Certainly no sanctions lifted until we see concrete actions taken by North Korea to denuclearize.”

Experts say President Trump is likely trying to send a strong signal to Kim Jong-un ahead of a summit, just what he expects.

Marcus Noland with the Peterson Institute for International Economics said, “We’re signaling that there is a high level of distrust. We don’t want to buy the same horse twice.”

Analysts say Trump could be signaling that if Kim shows he’s really sincere about taking apart the arsenal he already has, the U.S. could accept that being done in phases.

And with each phase, if it’s verified Kim has destroyed part of his arsenal, the U.S. could ease sanctions, and give Kim other economic benefits.

But experts warn: Kim, his father and grandfather have broken similar promises in the past.

Noland explained, “The North Koreans agreed to quite a package of moving towards disarmament back in 2005. It didn’t go anywhere. More recently in 2012, we agreed to provide them economic assistance. They agreed to stop testing long-range missiles and nuclear weapons, and violated it within weeks.”

And another warning from analysts: expecting Kim to destroy his entire nuclear arsenal may be simply unrealistic.

Max Boot with the Council on Foreign Relations said, “That’s essentially asking Kim Jong Un from his standpoint to commit suicide. Why would he want to do that? He sees nuclear weapons as a guarantee of regime survival, and his personal survival.”

Analysts are concerned that a deal to dismantle North Korea’s nuclear arsenal could break down. Then, they fear, the U.S. and North Korea will go back to a military posture toward one another and the U.S. might again consider a pre-emptive military strike.

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