During his 2020 election campaign, Trump stressed that President Obama had left him with a very dangerous situation with North Korea, one that he still It could even lead to war. According to him, he was instrumental in defusing the tension between the United States and the North Korean regime, thanks to the personal relationship he established with Kim Jong Un. On Twitter, in 2018, Trump bragged about his presence “Solve the problem”. After his first meeting with the North Korean leader in Singapore, he bragged on social media:
President Obama said that North Korea was our biggest and most serious problem. No longer – sleep well tonight! “
However, while it may be true that Trump avoided a major crisis with North Korea, he has not been able to stop the country from developing its nuclear and missile capabilities. At this point, it is the fifth largest nuclear power in Asia, after China, Russia, India and Pakistan.
Trump, the paradoxical “peacemaker” on the heavy nuclear peninsula
As is often the case with Trump, there is a measure of truth in his claims. He was able to position himself advantageously as a peacemaker, and even dream of winning the Nobel Peace Prize, like Obama before him. In 2019, he said it was Nominate By the then Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, and the award was endorsed by South Korean President Moon Jae-in. They applauded Trump’s initiative to engage in direct dialogue and hold summits with Kim, which was undeniably bold and unexpected. Sure, the June 2018 meeting in Singapore between the two leaders had an impact, and it appears to be a remarkable and promising event, as it put an end to the escalating escalation. The verbal conflict that broke out in the summer of 2017. That was when Trump threatened to shoot “fire and anger,” indicating that his General Staff had not ruled out military action against North Korea.
Even so, “summit diplomacy” may have seemed novel at the time, but it was no more effective than previous strategies. This includes the “strategic patience” of the Obama administration, which included waiting for the collapse of the regime under the weight of mounting sanctions to achieve complete, verifiable and irreversible nuclear disarmament. While Trump avoided conflict with North Korea, he was unable to prevent it after six nuclear tests and several ballistic missile launches, in 2017 North Korea classifying itself as a de facto nuclear power and proposing this. Reliable deterrence capabilities. It is not only a real and ongoing threat to the United States, which is within range of its ICBM, but also to the United States’ closest allies, South Korea and Japan.
North Korea’s nuclear deterrent tools
North Korea’s reasons for developing its nuclear resources have changed over time, but various American administrations have failed to try to understand them. When the Kim Jong Il regime conducted its first underground test in 2006, this was justified by the “nuclear threat” and pressure from the Bush administration. North Korea was designated as part of the “axis of evil” along with Iraq and Iran under President George W. Bush The famous State of the Union address In 2002. After the invasion of Iraq and the execution of Saddam Hussein in 2006, Pyongyang strongly suspected that Bush wanted to impose regime change in North Korea.
This mutual suspicion and distrust explain, in part, problems The Six-Party Talks It was established in 2003. This was a series of multilateral negotiations that brought together the six neighboring countries of the Korean Peninsula. Ultimately, North Korea agreed, in principle, to gradually shut down its nuclear facilities in exchange for building a light-water reactor and one million tons of heavy fuel oil (HFO). However, it withdrew from the talks in 2009, after receiving 550,000 tons of heavy fuel oil from the United States.
In May 2009, a second round of North Korean nuclear tests was conducted after the launch of a satellite that was revealed to be a ballistic missile, prompting the launch of a new round of sanctions. It can be believed, as the Obama administration did, that this was a continuation of a policy based on a relatively well-known cycle – provocations, sanctions, negotiations, concessions. When Kim Jong Un took power in 2011, nuclear development became a means of holding on to power and part of the regime’s identity, as it strengthened its operational capabilities through accelerated testing campaigns. North Korea Nuclear nationalism It is a response to a political need as much as it is a strategy. Domestically, it enhances the legitimacy of the regime and thus its stability. On the external front, it acts as a deterrent toward the United States and its allies in South Korea and Japan, who have each bolstered their missile defense capabilities.
From Obama to Trump, maximum pressure policy constraints and sanctions
Since the election of George W. Bush in 2000, CVID has been a cornerstone of US policy toward North Korea, even Presidents Obama and Trump. Their lack of flexibility and the influence of regional factors, including the role of China, shows why these policies have failed in the past, and are likely to fail in the future. While North Korea has shown that it is open to accepting the denuclearization process, this should happen gradually, and applies to the entire Korean Peninsula (that is, including the withdrawal of US forces stationed there) and includes strong security guarantees from the United States, specifically a peace treaty.
It must be reiterated that when the 1994 Agreed Framework was signed between the Clinton administration and Kim Il Sung of North Korea (the grandfather of the current leader), Bill Clinton agreed to build light-water reactors to provide the electricity needed for the country’s development. In return, the then booming nuclear program would be frozen. However, North Korea She never agreed to this kind of nuclear disarmament. They prefer decommissioning, which may include reducing and closing certain sites (especially the Yongbyon complex), rather than giving up nuclear capabilities entirely.
In 2018, the day after the first Singapore summit, Trump triumphantly declared that The nuclear disarmament process was to begin “very soon”. However, the agreement signed between the US president and North Korea’s leader remained vague on the subject of denuclearization, with each party having a completely different definition. according to Joint statementThe aim of this exchange was to “establish new relations” between the two countries and “build a lasting and strong peace regime on the Korean Peninsula.”
To this end, Trump has committed to providing “safety guarantees” for North Korea, while Kim Jong Un reiterated his “firm and unwavering commitment to the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.” Symbolic gestures were made, although nothing else in response to the moratorium on nuclear testing imposed by Pyongyang of its own free will, Trump suspended and scaled back some joint US-South Korean military exercises, such as the Ulchi-Freedom Guardian, which were canceled In September 2018.
In 2019, Prof. New top In Hanoi, the lack of understanding between the two leaders exposed and ended in disaster, with each side protesting against their goodwill. Trump stated that Kim Jong Un demanded the lifting of all sanctions imposed on North Korea in exchange for the dismantling of the Yongbyon nuclear complex, which had already been agreed upon. Kim Jong Un, whose main priority was economic development in the country, claimed that he had requested only a partial lifting of sanctions, those affecting the population the most, in exchange for closing the complex.
The illusion of potential success
A few months later, an impromptu meeting between the two leaders in the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), in Panmunjom, endorsed the illusion that negotiations could succeed. On Twitter, Trump repeated the economic benefits that nuclear disarmament would bring, to no avail. While adhering to the possibility of resuming the dialogue, the Trump administration has carefully avoided responding to North Korea’s provocations in the form of a short-range missile test throughout 2019 and into 2020.
In the end, Trump has clearly failed to turn the nuclear situation in North Korea into a personal success that can be attributed to his talents as a negotiator and personal relationship with the country’s leader. Although they were in direct contact and had regular correspondence (no fewer than 25 letters according to American journalist Bob Woodward), their proximity – whether real or exaggerated – was no match for North Korea’s strategic realism. While Trump was able to avoid war with North Korea, the country now has significant nuclear capabilities. Despite the sanctions and the epidemic, it was able to develop new ICBMs. One of these massive missiles was unveiled at the Night Military Parade in Pyongyang on October 10, 2020. It remains to be seen if it works. Maybe we should expect a new North Korea test campaign in 2021 …
Translated from French by Rosie Marsland L. Fast forward.
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