South Koreans see gamble in trusting Kim Jong Un over nuclear weapons

Shin Beomchul, a senior research fellow at the Asan Institute for Policy Studies and a former director-general for policy planning at South Korea’s foreign affairs ministry, warned that Moon has taken “a big risk” in so aggressively pursuing inter-Korean cooperation even without meaningful concessions from the North on its nuclear weapons.

“I think Moon Jae-in’s gamble is: trust in North Korea first, and verify later,” he said. “Trust-building is important, but the most important trust-building on the Korean Peninsula is denuclearization.”

Shin said North Korea would gain trust if it allowed credible inspections and provided a full description of its nuclear weapons, the amount of enriched uranium in its possession and all of its related facilities.

He said: “I think we must watch North Korea’s real action on denuclearization and expand our cooperation with the North step by step. I think that trust-building is too fast, compared to the denuclearization effort of North Korea.”

That is not a view shared by South Korea’s foreign minister, Kang Kyung-wha, who argued recently that demands for a full nuclear inventory could complicate negotiations at this stage. He said the U.S. should first consider trust-building steps such as a declaration ending the Korean War, which paused with an armistice in 1953.


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