Executive Intelligence Review


Obama Rejected North Korean Offer for Denuclearization Talks in 2013

June 5, 2018 (EIRNS)—Joel Wit, the State Department official who formulated and then administered the 1994 Agreed Framework with North Korea, and now runs the “38 North” website, reports in an editorial there today that North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un in 2013 offered to hold talks with the U.S. on denuclearization, similar to his offer this year which Trump has accepted. Wit, who was engaged in those talks in 2013, writes:

“Those meetings happened five years ago, but they took place at the very beginning stages of the nuclear strategy Kim is executing to such dramatic effect now. At the time, Kim Jong-un had just enshrined his byungjin policy, stating that the North intended to develop a nuclear arsenal as a shield behind which it could modernize its economy. North Korean officials explained in these private sessions that Kim had issued the new policy after concluding that his country needed more nuclear weapons to deter the United States.... The North Koreans also felt Washington and Seoul thought they could bully the North during the leadership transition that had begun with the death of Kim Jong-il in December 2011. One North Korean official I spoke to then said nuclear equaled survival.

“But other officials said that was only under present circumstances, and their approach could change if the tense relationship between the United States and North Korea improved. That might explain a puzzling move by the North in June 2013, when the National Defense Commission—the top government body in Pyongyang chaired by Kim—issued an important new pronouncement that it was open to negotiations on denuclearization. The Obama administration dismissed it at the time as propaganda.”

Wit does not mention it, but Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at the time were implementing the “pivot to Asia,” the nuclear-armed ring around China and Russia in Asia, and were clearly not interested in losing the North Korea “excuse” for implementing this policy. Obama called it “strategic patience”—doing nothing while North Korea built the bomb.

Wit also writes that the officials he spoke with in North Korea insisted that the offer came from Kim Jong-un, and that he was totally serious about denuclearization and improving relations with the U.S. Kim had reached an agreement in 2012 with the Obama Administration to end nuclear weapons tests and long-range missile tests, but when North Korea launched a satellite, Obama claimed the deal meant they could not have a space program either, and scrapped the deal.

The North Korean demands in 2013 were essentially the same as today, Wit says—end the hostile policy against North Korea, including all the political, economic and strategic aspects of that policy.

Wit is rather optimistic about Trump’s chances. He concludes that “the Trump administration doesn’t necessarily endorse [National Security Advisor John] Bolton’s view” (the Libya model, of giving over everything before any U.S. concessions kick in), while, Wit continues,

“Susan Thornton, the Acting Assistant Secretary of State in charge of Asia, said last week that it was obvious there would be multiple steps in a long process of denuclearization, and the key issue was what happened first.”