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North Korea rejects US demand to give up 60% of nuclear arsenal

A photo released by KCNA news agency on March 12, 2013, shows North Korea leader Kim Jong Un visiting the Wolnae-do Defence Detachment on the western front line. (KCNA/Xinhua/Zuma Press/MCT)
August 10, 2018

In the latest denuclearization talks between Trump Administration officials and North Korea, an official timeline was established and presented to North Korea.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo presented the timeline proposed by the U.S., which required North Korea to give up “60 to 70 percent of its nuclear warheads within six to eight months,” according to an exclusive Vox report on Wednesday.

The timeline requires North Korea hand over the nuclear weapons to the U.S. or a third party country, who will remove them permanently from North Korea’s possession. Details have not been provided as to what the U.S. would offer North Korea in exchange.

Two sources said to be close to the denuclearization discussions noted that Pompeo presented this plan to North Korean officials several times within the past two months. However, North Korean officials rejected the plan each time. Critics say this repeated rejection indicates a strained relationship between the two nations, and a lack of progress.

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The U.S. is unsure just how many nuclear weapons North Korea possesses, since that information has not been disclosed. This lack of information would make it impossible to verify whether or not North Korea actually hands over 60-70 percent of their arsenal — if they eventually agree to the proposal.

North Korea’s ruling Workers’ Party told officials that North Korea will not give up its nuclear arsenal, which it deems a “precious legacy,” according to a Radio Free Asia report in July.

A source told RFA anonymously that the party’s Central Committee met in July to discuss the issue. “The last speaker who ended the six-hour-long meeting emphasized that ‘nuclear is a precious legacy from the late leaders’ and ‘if there is no nuclear, there is death,’” the source said.

Recent reports have suggested North Korea won’t be giving up its nuclear weapons, as intelligence agencies have observed the increased production of nuclear weapons fuel at North Korean facilities.

National Security Adviser John Bolton said Tuesday that North Korea had “not taken effective steps to [denuclearize].

Former State Department official Michael Fuchs said the U.S. proposal “makes a lot of sense for both sides,” calling it “a very clear, upfront down payment.”

“I can imagine a world where the North Koreans agreed to do this,” he said, adding that they would need something substantial in exchange for the action.

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Reports seem to suggest that North Korea has been resistant in the negotiations. After talks with Pompeo last month, a North Korean official called demands made by the U.S. “gangster-like” and “regrettable.”

However, President Trump and Pompeo maintain that the two nations are making good progress with productive negotiations. Pompeo has advised patience as the two nations work toward building trust and improving relations.

Satellite imagery did reveal last month that a North Korean missile site was undergoing dismantlement, and the country also returned 55 remains presumed to be U.S. troops lost in the Korean War. These steps may indicate some degree of good faith and compromise with U.S. demands.

A second meeting between President Trump and Kim Jong Un is rumored to take place later this year. Given the lack of a denuclearization timeline thus far, it is possible Trump may add pressure face-to-face with Kim.