Sejong Policy Briefs
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Sejong Policy Briefs

The U.S. Perception of the Second DPRK-U.S. Summit and Future Prospects
2019.03.28  Thursday
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Woo Jung-Yeop

The U.S. Perception of the Second DPRK-U.S. Summit and Future Prospects


Woo Jung-Yeop

Research Fellow, the Sejong Institute


Executive Summary


The causes behind the collapse of the second DPRK-U.S. summit and prospects for the resumption of negotiations between the two countries require objective and realistic analyses.


Despite assertions that U.S. President Donald Trump’s domestic political situation and U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton’s intervention resulted in the collapse of the summit, this article does not consider these two factors as main independent variables since they were not the key determinants of the summit’s breakdown.


From the U.S. perspective, North Korea’s proposal to dismantle its Yongbyon nuclear complex in exchange for the removal of sanctions under five United Nations Security Council resolutions was difficult to accept since the deal only allows for a partial removal of North Korea’s current and future missile and nuclear weapon capabilities.


As U.S. Special Representative for North Korea Stephen Biegun had mentioned prior to working-level negotiations, the surprise counter-offer by the U.S., the so-called “big deal”, appears to have been motivated largely by the inability of the two sides to come to an agreement on the definition of denuclearization.


When North Korea demanded sanctions relief without a fundamental agreement on denuclearization, the U.S. appears to have decided that signing another abstract agreement similar to the Singapore Agreement will do more harm especially since the U.S. considers sanctions relief as its only leverage against the North.


Despite North Korea’s desire for a “step-by-step” and “reciprocal” approach in which steps toward denuclearization are accompanied by partial or complete sanctions relief, the U.S. finds it hard to accept such a proposal given that sanctions relief is the only remaining bargaining chip it has to induce changes in North Korean behavior.


Given that these proposals were revealed and discussed so openly and publicly, the audience costs have increased dramatically to a point where reverting back will be difficult.


As such, future DPRK-U.S. negotiations are much likely to rely on concessions from one side rather than to aim for a compromise between the two parties.