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August 6, 1945, was the day Hiroshima suffered under the devasting power of the first-ever atomic bomb used by the United States. This historic event changed the nature of war which led to a surge in the production of nuclear-powered weapons after WWII.1 With many world powers obtaining such dangerous weapons, there was a need to impose treaties for its production and usage. The 1968 Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) is one example that was imposed to restrict the production and distribution of such weapons. It also stated the directions for nuclear resources to be used for peaceful motives and included disarmament plans for the future.2 In spite of this, North Korea has sparked much controversy by not complying with the regulations of the NPT in 1985.2 This led to long-term denuclearization negotiations between the United States of America (USA) and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) of which always ended inconclusively. This is a result of the misalignment of conditions for denuclearization, the ineffectiveness of sanctions imposed on North Korea for the termination of its nuclear program, and the failure of the international community to have a united stand on North Korea’s denuclearization.
The misalignment of conditions between the USA and DPRK hampers the progression of North Korea’s denuclearization. One example would be the Singapore Joint Declaration signed during the Trump-Kim summit which does not state specifically the meaning of total denuclearization and the security guarantees President Trump would provide to the DPRK. This has resulted in many uncertainties. Firstly, US and DPRK have their own different interpretation of denuclearization. For the USA, denuclearization means the removal of all forms of nuclear-powered resources which includes weapons and nuclear-generating facilities. DPRK conversely, defines this as a gradual action rather than an immediate removal of all their nuclear-powered resources. Secondly, without any fixed timeline and agenda-setting, the DPRK Comment by Thien Zhi Yang Reuben: How does it hamper?
Can decide the duration to carry out their denuclearization plans under their own terms. Thirdly, the security guarantees provided by the USA vary to some extent depending on the extent of North Korea’s denuclearization. Without properly defining the respective views on denuclearization and the plans to be carried out, both countries are suspicious of each other which has often led to a denuclearization hiatus. Thus, proper alignment of the denuclearization conditions between the USA and DPRK must be attained for successful negotiations to take place.
Apart from the misalignment of conditions for denuclearization, the ineffectiveness of sanctions imposed also encourages a continuation of North Korea’s nuclear program for economic benefits. In 2006, North Korea conducted its first nuclear weapon test amidst negotiations for denuclearization. This bold move gained much attention from the international community and to deter North Korea’s hostile actions, additional sanctions were imposed. Despite this, North Korea continued to conduct another round of tests in 2009 following the inauguration of the Obama Administration which proposed for the renewal of the Six-Party alliance. This has brought about speculations that North Korea’s intention to conduct such tests is a means to bargain for additional economic aid and to mass produce nuclear weapons to support their economy. With increased sanctions, North Korea was placed in a vulnerable position against any military attack and its domestic destabilization. The purpose of the additional sanctions was to discourage further nuclearization in North Korea but because of national interest, it was the only alternative that North Korea had to survive. Hence, North Korea took advantage of the situation and continued its nuclear program for national benefits.
The failure of the international community to take a united stand on North Korea’s denuclearization has prevented a mutual consensus, resulting in the lack of a firm resolution. An example would be the Six-Party Talks which were set up in 2003 to solve the North Korea denuclearization issue. This dialogue comprised of a coalition made between the US, China, Russia, Japan, South Korea, and North Korea which initially was hesitant. Between 2003 to 2009, when North Korea left the Six-Party Talks, there were many disputes between members which were factored in when there was a need to agree on a solution. Other reasons which impacted the decision-making on North Korea’s denuclearization were the lack of communication, unequal commitment in providing economic relief to North Korea, and prioritizing national interests. Consequently, each member had different propositions to solve the denuclearization issue. Furthermore, North Korea saw the tension among members as an opportunity to demand for more economic relief and leeway. Should neighboring countries continue to not have a unified stand, North Korea will continue to control the diplomacy in Northeast Asia with their nuclear weapons. Therefore, it is paramount that the international community stand united on North Korea’s denuclearization and put an end to the incessant nuclear issue.
The Trump-Kim summit held in Singapore marks a long history of denuclearization negotiations since 1985. The USA has always pressured North Korea toward denuclearization through various bilateral and regional dialogues all of which North Korea has never complied with. The article written by Bonnie Girard makes reference of the current nuclear issue to WWII in that following the surrender of the Japanese, Churchill, Roosevelt, Chiang Kai-Shek and Stalin agreed that Korea will have her independence but gradually.9 Though there was much agreement on the outcome of Korea after WWII, individual national interests caused many conflicts to arise between countries resulting in the eventual fallout of the coalition formed between the world powers. This reference summarizes that collective effort between the world Comment by Thien Zhi Yang Reuben: Do not understand, have to rephrase.
Powers were key to solving the denuclearization issue and without common effort made, conflicts will continue to persist. Moreover, Sentosa as the venue for the summit reminds many of the trauma caused during the Japanese Occupation in 1942 but at the same time, a moment of peace when the Japanese surrendered in 1945. This brought about a sense of hope for many that the Trump-Kim summit held at Sentosa, was a possible dialogue for both countries to reach a peaceful compromise. Hence, I would not modify any part of Bonnie Girard’s view on the Trump-Kim summit.
In conclusion, USA and North Korea negotiations will continue to take place should the misalignment of conditions for denuclearization, the ineffectiveness of sanctions imposed on North Korea for the termination of its nuclear program, and the failure of the international community to have a united stand on North Korea’s denuclearization are not addressed. Ultimately, without a collective effort made by the international community to have a united stand against North Korea’s denuclearization, the nuclear issue will continue to persist.
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