Poor international track record

In “One big reason North Korea is not too eager to denuclearise” (Al Jazeera, October 13, 2018), Alexander Gillespie, a professor of international law at the University of Waikato, points to the poor international track record on denuclearization as a significant obstacle to the pressing issue of the denuclearization of North Korea.

The author points to two failures concerning North Korea. The Ukrainian, Lybian, and Iranian cases also offer hard lessons for a state asked to denuclearize.

Though not included by the author, Iraq could offer another case where the lack of nuclear deterrence resulted in invasion and regime change. It was forced to give up its nuclear program after the 1991 Gulf War.

The bottom line is that in order to convince the North Koreans that things would be different this time around, the US needs to provide strong guarantees that can withstand changes in presidents.

It should be added that one also requires a robust peace regime which the US or any other country could overturn.

Twice before, in 1994 and 2007, agreements aiming to denuclearise North Korea were signed but failed….

In 1994, Ukraine gave up the nuclear weapons… In 2003, Libya scrapped its programme…. In 2015, Iran agreed to halt its nuclear programmes….

Kim Jong Un can clearly see that none of the aforementioned countries became any safer or more prosperous for giving up their nuclear weapons or potential. Moreover, parties to these agreements failed to uphold their promises.

President Trump will have to convince Chairman Kim Jong Un of three things:

First, that any agreement they reach will do more to secure the territorial integrity of North Korea than the 1994 Budapest Memorandum on Security Assurances did to protect the territorial integrity of Ukraine.

Second, that their new relationship will not be a charade – like the one between his predecessors and Libya’s Gaddafi – and that Washington will not wait for opportunities to topple Kim’s regime even after North Korea completes denuclearisation.

Third, that the US will hold its side of the deal, even after the end of Trump’s tenure – in other words, a guarantee that future US presidents will not do to North Korea what Trump did to Iran. None of these will be easy to achieve, as past actions speak louder than words.

Read more at Al Jazeera.