Any nuclear and missile reduction agreement must be verified by the IAEA. The process would be similar to what the United States and Soviet Union/Russian Federation have done to reduce their nuclear forces and missiles.
Dr. Howard Stoffer served in the Foreign Service of the United States from 1980 to 2005, retiring as a member of the Senior Foreign Service of the Department of State. He served for seven years as the Deputy Executive Director of the Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate of the United Nations Security Council. His research interests focus on American national security, including nuclear arms control, U.S. policies in the Middle East, Russia, China and the Koreas as well as counter-terrorism institutions of the United Nations and other UN matters.
ILNA: What was the reason for the sudden turning point of the US and the decision to hold the summit?
The U.S. and North Korea spent last year on a path toward war with unimaginable consequences for the Korean Peninsula and the world, especially if nuclear weapons were used. With the positive South Korean invitation to the North to attend the Winter Olympics and march as a joint team, Kim Jung-un responded by sending a high-level delegation to watch the games, including his own sister, which received a warm welcome and a chance to talk directly to President Moon of South Korea. That change in February led to the ROK-DPRK Summit on the Demilitarized Zone in April and the invitation to President Trump to meet Chairman Kim Jung-un.
ILNA: What is the position of North Korean neighbors, and in particular South Korea, on security issues and China in the economic field? Does any compromise cause China to lose its winning card against the United States?
Steps to initiate a more peaceful Korean Peninsula is not a zero-sum game. South Korea seeks to remove the North Korean nuclear threat and eventually to reduce and eliminate its missile capabilities and artillery deployed along its northern border. This will take years to reach such goals, but as the Chinese say, a long journey begins with the first step. China wants a stable neighbor on its border with North Korea and any movement to open its economy will produce a lower military threat to Beijing, including the reduction and elimination of North Korea’s nuclear forces. If a deal results in a reduced American military presence in South Korea, that is an outcome China strongly supports.
ILNA: Is an agreement on nuclear disarmament possible in practice? How do you evaluate the role of the International Atomic Energy Agency on this issue?
Any nuclear and missile reduction agreement must be verified by the IAEA. The process would be similar to what the United States and Soviet Union/Russian Federation have done to reduce their nuclear forces and missiles. It is complicated, requires extensive expertise and if it truly gets underway in the coming months and years will require a much larger UN agency than the current staffing of the IAEA to monitor, verify and insure irreversible and complete denuclearization. This is a cost that UN member states will be happy to pay to see a world moving toward significant reductions and possible elimination of all nuclear weapons.
ILNA: How will the U.S. withdrawal from JCPOA affect the negotiation process with North Korea? Do you think that this will lead to distrust of North Korean officials in Washington?
The U.S. withdrawal from the JCPOA may have an impact on North Korea, but both the U.S. and North Korea will insist on verifiable steps to ensure compliance. Iran and North Korea are not the same because North Korea already has nuclear weapons and massive facilities for producing fissile material for making more bombs. The process of denuclearization in North Korea is much more complex and demanding than monitoring the situation in Iran with respect to nuclear capabilities. Therefore, the U.S. action on the JCPOA should not present an issue for North Korea provided it gets what it wants: lifting of UN and U.S. sanctions, Western investment in the North, reduction of U.S. military forces in South Korea and a pause in U.S. military exercises with the South. By just meeting President Trump, the North achieved a long term goal of legitimation and recognition by the U.S. as a normal country with whom to do business.
ILNA: What is your assessment of events in Singapore?
The meeting in Singapore was an historic and symbolic step. Credit is due to President Trump for breaking years of failed approaches to North Korea. The Statement of Principles is a good first step but flawed for what it leaves out. The hard work begins next to work out how to implement the promises and commitments made by both sides. If tensions can be reduced on the Korean Peninsula and 70 years of threats can be overcome, it would be a huge win for the world. It also opens the possibility that perhaps peace could come to the Middle East with respect, good will and commitment to human rights and rule of law.