The ICAS Lectures


Principles for a Trump Negotiating Strategy Toward Kim Jong-un

Larry Niksch

Institute for Corean-American Studies, Inc.

Biographic sketch & Links: Larry A. Niksch

[Editor's note: This article is published here as a gift from the author: sjk]

Principles for a Trump Negotiating Strategy Toward Kim Jong-un

Larry Niksch

May 6, 2018

President Trump will face at least four challenges if he meets with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. The first is the limited amount of time for the meeting. This meeting is unlikely to run more than two days; two full days of negotiations and interactions between the two leaders may be optimistic. The other three challenges relate to the North Korean nuclear issue. Kim may make proposals to limit the scope of denuclearization. These could involve a proposal for an agreed upon freeze of nuclear and missile testing and/or restricting discussions of North Korea’s nuclear program to nuclear-armed inter-continental ballistic missiles that could strike the United States. Kim also likely will proposal new limits on the operations of U.S. forces in South Korea and the exercises of U.S. offshore forces related to North Korean contingencies. Kim, too, might press for early relaxation of a substantial number of United Nations sanctions in response to agreements on the nuclear issue—prior to implementation of such agreements.

President Trump needs a negotiating strategy for the summit that will provide for an effective U.S. response to any of these Kim Jong-un proposals. He also needs to present a plan containing the basic elements of denuclearization and U.S. responses to implementation of these elements. In a short, two days or less summit, the U.S. plan cannot be excessively detailed; but—very importantly--it must be detailed enough to make clear the content of each element and the outcome of each element.

It seems to me that President Trump could accomplish this by presenting a set of principles governing denuclearization that describes each element of a denuclearization process. President Trump could state these directly to Kim Jong-un and, most important, call for both leaders to sign a joint statement containing the principles.

If Kim agreed to issue such a joint statement, the summit would provide a clear outline for future negotiations on the nuclear issue. If Kim refused, President Trump and his advisers would gain evidence that North Korea intends to employ the same negotiating-diplomatic tactics of evasions, concealment, denials, and continual new demands that it used with the Clinton, Bush, and Obama administrations.

The following are my thoughts on the principles that President Trump should present to Kim. I have specified their application to North Korea’s nuclear program. However, they could be applied to the broader definition, “Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula” if President Trump should decide to use that designation.

Principle One. Full Disclosure of the North Korean Nuclear Program: disclosure of the number of nuclear warheads; explosive power of individual warheads; models of the warheads (short range, intermediate range, long range); amounts of nuclear materials, both plutonium and highly enriched uranium; production facilities; research laboratories; testing sites. Disclosure to include the location of warheads, nuclear materials, and facilities.

Principle Two. Verification: Empower the operation of the IAEA or another designated international inspection organization throughout the territory of North Korea—not just Yongbyon. Empower the inspection organization the right of inspection of any facility it designates. Empower the inspection organization to inspect facilities within a specific, short time limit after designation. Empower the inspection organization to use any legitimate means of inspecting facilities, including taking samples of materials for laboratory analysis. Grant the inspection organization access to all North Korean nuclear officials, scientists, and technicians for questioning.

Principle Three. Dismantlement of Nuclear Warheads, Materials, and Facilities Under International Inspection: destruction of production, testing, and laboratory equipment.

Principle Four. Removal of Nuclear Warheads and Materials to an Agreed Upon Third Country: the removal to be carried out by a designated international inspections organization.

Principle Five. Return to Signatory of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty As an Initial Step in the Process of Denuclearization.

Principle Six. Disclosure of All Nuclear Proliferation Activities: full disclosure of collaboration with Iran in developing nuclear technology, including designs for nuclear warheads that could be fitted on common missiles possessed by both countries. Agreement for cessation of North Korean nuclear and missile collaboration with Iran and Syria monitored by an international inspection organization.

Principle Seven. Possible U.S. Responses: establishment of diplomatic relations and progressive relaxation of sanctions when the principles stated above are fully implemented, starting with full disclosure. State to Kim Jong-un that changes in U.S. troop dispositions in South Korea and/or the number of U.S. troops will depend on the resolving of all the nuclear and non-nuclear issues that determine the missions of U.S. forces.

Principle Eight. Requirement of a Comprehensive Freeze. If Kim Jong-un proposes a freeze limited to nuclear and missile testing, counter with a requirement of a “Comprehensive Freeze.” This to include a freeze on nuclear and missile testing but also a freeze of production of nuclear materials, nuclear warheads, and intermediate and long range missiles. The operation of nuclear research laboratories to be suspended. A comprehensive freeze to be recognized as implemented when a designated international inspection organization has secured full access to all such facilities in North Korea in order to verify that testing, production, and relevant facilities have ceased to operate.

These principles admittedly are a “tall order.” However, they are realistically necessary elements in any successful denuclearization. They also contain requirements that past U.S. administrations and their negotiators failed to secure. President Trump should present them as meeting the necessary requirements and correcting the U.S. mistakes of past negotiations.

This page last updated May 15, 2018 jdb