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Is new North and South Korea deal a significant step toward denuclearization?

Is new North and South Korea deal a significant step toward denuclearization?


JUDY WOODRUFF: There are new signs today of
a potential path to peace on the Korean Peninsula. The leaders of both the North and South agreed
to what they say are concrete steps toward denuclearization. Yamiche Alcindor reports. YAMICHE ALCINDOR: Applause, handshakes and
smiles, that marked the signing of a joint agreement between the two leaders and their
most significant progress to date. After days of celebrations and carefully choreographed
events, Kim Jong-un and Moon Jae-in pledged a new era for the Koreas. It could mean one without nuclear weapons
someday. MOON JAE-IN, South Korean President (through
translator): Today, Chairman Kim Jong-un and I agreed on specific measures to remove the
fear of war and possibility of armed clash. Also, we promised to keep our land permanently
free from nuclear threats and war and pass it down to our descendants. YAMICHE ALCINDOR: Kim agreed to dismantle
his main Dongchang-ri missile testing site. He also said he would allow experts from relevant
countries to be present. Satellite images, though, show work was already
under way to decommission the site. Kim also committed to permanently dismantling
his main nuclear weapons complex, but he said he would only do so if the U.S. takes unspecified
corresponding measures. The U.S. has said it will ease economic sanctions
only in exchange for complete denuclearization. But, in Washington, President Trump sounded
upbeat. DONALD TRUMP, President of the United States:
Very importantly, no missile testing, no nuclear testing. YAMICHE ALCINDOR: So far, North Korea has
refused to list its nuclear sites, as well the timeline for dismantling them. Last month, Mr. Trump canceled a trip by Secretary
of State Mike Pompeo to Pyongyang. The president cited the North’s lack of progress
on giving up its nuclear weapons. Today, he cited improvement of a different
kind. DONALD TRUMP: The relationships, I have to
tell you, at least on a personal basis, they’re very good. It’s very much calmed down. In the meantime, we’re talking. It’s very calm. He’s calm. I’m calm. So we will see what happens. YAMICHE ALCINDOR: Pompeo said today he has
invited the North’s top diplomat to meet next week. He said he expects nuclear talks to be finished
by January 2021. Back in Pyongyang, the Moon-Kim talks produced
several achievements for North-South relations, including military cooperation. KIM JONG-UN, North Korean Leader (through
translator): We adopted a military pact to end the history of brutal and tragic confrontation
and hostility, and agreed to make efforts to turn the Korean Peninsula into a land of
peace without nuclear weapons and nuclear threats. YAMICHE ALCINDOR: The two countries also agreed
to make a joint bid for the 2032 Olympic Games and work on reunifying more families separated
after the Korean War. Kim also agreed to travel to South Korea,
something no North Korean leader has ever done. How significant are these steps, and how should
the United States respond? We get two views. Bruce Klingner had a 20-year career in the
U.S. intelligence community, where he focused on North Korea. He’s now a senior research fellow at the Heritage
Foundation. And Jenny Town is the managing editor and
producer of 38 North, an online policy journal that focuses on North Korea. Thank you, both of you, for being here. Bruce, I’m going to start with you. What’s your reaction to the meeting yesterday
and these agreements that have been announced? BRUCE KLINGNER, Former CIA Intelligence Analyst:
I think we have to measure it two different ways. On inter-Korean relations and reducing the
potential for military conflict, at least at a tactical level, I think it was successful. On the denuclearization, which is of greater
concern to the United States, we didn’t make any real progress. And we need to put more meat to the bones
of this agreement, as well as the Singapore agreement that President Trump had. YAMICHE ALCINDOR: Bruce is talking about possibly
there being not a lot of change there. What do you think about that, Jenny? JENNY TOWN, Managing Editor/Producer, 38 North:
Well, I tend to agree. I mean, they did offer a confidence-building
measure, in terms of actually destroying also the launch pad at the Dongchang-ri at Sohae,
as well as this engine test stand, which they had already agreed to. But they reiterated that this is not a unilateral
process. And I think expectations were too high to
begin with of what President Moon would be able to accomplish on the denuclearization
front, because it really is much more of U.S.-DPRK discussion. YAMICHE ALCINDOR: Now, these leaders announced
several different agreements. One of them, Jenny, is that the North Koreans
are going to allow international inspectors in to a key missile testing facility to confirm
whether or not Kim Jong-un is permanently dismantling that. How important is that? JENNY TOWN: Well, first to clarify, it’s actually
not a missile testing facility. It is what they consider to be their civilian
space launch — satellite launch program. So there is an engine test stand there where
they have been building and testing liquid fuel engines that could be used either for
rockets or for missiles. But the launch pad has only been used for
satellite launches. I think it is significant, because this is
an area where there has been disagreement in the past over this distinction between
civilian programs and military programs. And it has derailed agreements in the passage,
such as the Leap Day agreement in 2012. So this does help close that loophole. And if they allow actual experts in, and not
just media, to actually observe the dismantlement, I think it is a very positive move, but it’s
still a confidence-building measure. It’s not meant to be unilateral denuclearization. YAMICHE ALCINDOR: Jenny is looking at this
as a positive development. What do you think about that, Bruce? BRUCE KLINGNER: I would say this, along with
many other aspects of the — or the Pyongyang declaration are good, but then, in many cases,
they’re outweighed by the “however, comma” aspect. So, North Korean has said they don’t need
a nuclear test site, they don’t need a rocket engine test site because their ICBM and their
nuclear weapons programs are over. So it’s less important than it would have
been during the development of these programs. And also the missiles that we are worried
about, including their ICBM, are mobile. So they wouldn’t be launched from a gantry
like this facility. So we’re more worried about the mobile missiles
than any fixed-launch facility. YAMICHE ALCINDOR: And staying with you, Bruce,
the North Korean leader says that he’s willing to close the Yongbyon nuclear complex if and
only if the United States takes corresponding measures. What’s your reaction to that? Should the United States take these corresponding
measures? And what can the United States do, other than
lift sanctions? BRUCE KLINGNER: Right. Well, North Korea is putting a lot of conditionality
on things that they are required to do under 11 U.N. resolutions. And, in fact, they had promised to abandon
this facility back in 1994. So we’re trying to get back to the — back
to the future. When North Korea has put a heavy conditionality
of it appropriate measures, they didn’t define what that is. We think it might be a peace declaration,
which they have said is very important. There are a number of really sort of serious
ramifications for where a peace declaration could go. And unless we get something specifically as
a quid pro quo, I don’t think we should go down that path. YAMICHE ALCINDOR: And, Jenny, what do you
think of this idea of corresponding measures? JENNY TOWN: Well, that’s always been the case. And that’s always been the expectation by
North Korea. And if you look at Singapore summit declaration,
there’s a lot of room, though, for what the U.S. could do, other than just lifting sanctions,
because the way that the North Koreans are looking at this is really the road to denuclearization
is paved with a fundamentally different political relationship with the United States. And so you have the — the number one point
is looking U.S.-DPRK relations. The number two point is looking at this peace
regime. And there’s a lot you can do within that to
offer to improve relations, to create liaison offices, to live the travel ban, to even admit
— or commit to not imposing new sanctions along the way, without lifting sanctions,
until you have more specific measures. But, certainly, the U.S. is going to have
to do some of these things if we want North Korea to continue down this road also. YAMICHE ALCINDOR: Bruce, before yesterday’s
meeting, the president of South Korea said one of the main objectives was to get the
U.S. and North Korean talks back on track. They have been stalled. What do you make of that? And has what you have learned in the last
24 hours made you feel as though these talks are back on track? BRUCE KLINGNER: Well, I think they will be,
because the president very quickly and very positively reacted to this communique. So I think, for him, that’s enough to justify
having a second summit, as he has accepted an invitation from Kim Jong-un. But I think experts will say that nothing
really has changed, so when he canceled Pompeo’s trip, nothing has changed, except receiving
a very nice letter from Kim Jong-un and then this positive, though not really any action
on denuclearization. So I think the president will agree to it,
but I think a number of people are concerned that there’s not sufficient preparation for
the summit, because, in many cases, we’re going into these things, we don’t know what
North Korea needs. Well, we need to find that out. We always negotiate with ourselves. We think this is what North Korea wants, so
let’s do that. And they either pocket the concession and
then move on to the next demand. YAMICHE ALCINDOR: And I want to ask you, what
do you make of that? And what do you think of this idea? JENNY TOWN: Well, I think — I agree that
the president obviously responded to it very positively. I think my biggest concern, too, is, how are
they actually interpreting the agreement, because, if you look at Pompeo’s statement
this evening, there are things in there that seem to indicate he thinks that North Korea
actually committed to closing down Yongbyon. But the wording of the agreement, it doesn’t
actually say that. It says it’s willing to do things like that
if the U.S. continues to play their part as well. And so I think this is where we really run
into problems as to, do we have matching expectations of what’s been committed? Do we have matching expectations of how do
we even evaluate and measure progress over time? And I don’t think we do. YAMICHE ALCINDOR: We have 30 seconds, last
one I’m going to ask you really quickly. The U.S. wants to not — to not lift sanctions
unless there’s a full denuclearization. South Korea wants to have incentives that
are economic. What do both of you think? You can go first, Bruce. What do both of you think about that idea
of these two countries being out of sync? Could it hurt the U.S. and South Korea alliance? BRUCE KLINGNER: I’m hearing from U.S. officials
there’s — there’s a dissatisfaction with how quickly the Moon Jae-in administration
is moving forward, without demanding commensurate progress in denuclearization. So there are already some strains. And that could get worse. YAMICHE ALCINDOR: And Jenny? JENNY TOWN: Yes, I agree. I think it is causing tensions in the U.S.-Korea
alliance. And — but for Moon, Moon really needs this
to work, and he’s bet a lot on North Korea now. And so they’re going to have to find a way
to make this compromise, or President Moon is going to have to make a very difficult
decisions. YAMICHE ALCINDOR: Great. Well, thank you to both of you for joining
me, Bruce Klingner and Jenny Town. BRUCE KLINGNER: Thank you.

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