I woke up this morning to numerous news alerts that told me North Korea is open to talks with the US about denuclearization. I rolled my eyes because does anyone honestly believe this?

Yeah, I don’t especially after I dug deeper. North Korea said it is open to talks “and that it would suspend all nuclear and missile tests while it is engaged in such talks.”

North Korean Claims

US officials have said that they will only consider talks with the communist country “if it conceded to ‘denuclearization.'”

North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un made these remarks during a South Koreantwo-day visit in North Korean capital of Pyongyang.

From The Washington Post:

Chung Eui-yong, South Korea’s presidential national security director, said in Seoul that the North was willing to discuss steps to roll back its nuclear program if the United States agreed to talks.

The North would also agreed to suspend nuclear and missile tests during the possible talks with the United States, he said.

Yeah, um, I don’t think that’s what our officials meant by denuclearization. I believe they meant that the hermit kingdom agrees to give up ALL of its nuclear weapons permanently. Not just during the talks.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in’s office released this statement:

“The North Korean side clearly stated its willingness to denuclearize,” the statement said. “It made it clear that it would have no reason to keep nuclear weapons if the military threat to the North was eliminated and its security guaranteed.”

“The North expressed its willingness to hold a heartfelt dialogue with the United States on the issues of denuclearization and normalizing relations with the United States,” the statement said. “It made it clear that while dialogue is continuing, it will not attempt any strategic provocations, such as nuclear and ballistic missile tests.”

Moon’s national security advisor Chung Eui-yong told reporters in Seoul that Kim “had been unexpectedly flexible.” For instance, he expected Kim to demand South Korea and the U.S. suspend joint military exercises, but Kim “simply said he could understand why the joint exercises must resume in April on the same scale as before.” Kim also said that he hopes the two countries will make changes “if the situation on the Korean Peninsula stabilizes in the future.”

Chung also reiterated that Kim made no demands of the Trump administration other than that “they wanted to be treated like a serious dialogue partner.”

Reactions

President Donald Trump is rightfully skeptic:

Japan’s Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera is also approaching the news with caution:

“While talking about nuclear abandonment several times, it turned out that North Korea didn’t halt its nuclear development in the past,” Mr. Onodera said. “We need to carefully assess if this North and South dialogue will really lead to the abandonment of nuclear and missile development.”

Former State Department official Evans J.R. Revere is also leery about the statements. He worked on North Korean talks before and noted that denuclearization in exchange for security guarantees has been used in the past:

“The U.S. has actually provided security guarantees to North Korea, including in writing by President Clinton,” Mr. Revere said. “Such guarantees have never been adequate or acceptable to the North Koreans, just as the U.S. provision of alternative energy sources, food and other assistance has never proved adequate.”

He also noted that the moratorium on nuclear and missile tests offered by the North would not prevent Pyongyang from continuing to build its nuclear arsenal, including by producing fissile material for nuclear weapons.

However, he admitted that “the Trump administration would be hard-pressed to reject the North’s proposal without making it appear that Washington — not Pyongyang — was the problem.”

North Korea Missiles

Before the remarks became public, Lt. Gen. Robert Ashley, head of the US Defense Intelligence Agency, said that North Korea already owns “three long-range missiles, two of which can hit the U.S., and will almost certainly continue its nuclear and missile testing.” NBC News continued:

Despite sanctions and international condemnation, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un “shows no interest in voluntarily walking away from his nuclear or missile programs, which he has made central to his security strategy,” wrote Lt. Gen. Robert Ashley in an assessment to be delivered to the Senate Armed Services Committee Tuesday.

“Additional missile launches — from short range to intercontinental range — are a near certainty,” wrote Ashley, “and further nuclear tests are possible as Pyongyang seeks to refine its weapon designs.”

Ashley’s report will go to the Senate Armed Services Committee today:

Ashley said that North Korea tested two types of intercontinental ballistic missiles in 2017 that could hit the U.S., a Hwasong-14 and Hwasong-15. Pyongyang also tested two Hwasong-12 intermediate-range missiles over Japan last year, the second of which “demonstrated a capability to range more than 3,700 kilometers, which can reach beyond Guam.”

Ashley’s assessment also detailed North Korea’s formidable non-nuclear threats.

Pyongyang’s shorter range ballistic arsenal threatens Seoul more than ever, according to Ashley. North Korea has thousands of long-range artillery and rocket systems along the demilitarized zone and a nearly operational close-range ballistic missile capable of reaching Seoul and major U.S. air and ground bases farther south.

Ashley wrote that all North Korea can easily launch an attack on South Korea and our forces with almost no warning. He noted that North Korea could also have “‘up to several thousand tons’ of chemical agents, such as ‘nerve, blister, blood, and choking agents.'”