Seoul should seek manageable goals in dealing with NK

By Choi He-suk
  • Published : Sept 3, 2018 - 20:52
  • Updated : Sept 3, 2018 - 20:52

President Moon Jae-in should seek to keep denuclearization talks alive, rather than seek a major breakthrough in his planned meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, says Oxford University’s Lawrence Freedman.

Speaking at a discussion with Moon Chung-in, a Yonsei University professor and special adviser to the South Korean president, Freedman said that Seoul and Washington have failed in managing expectations in their dealings with North Korea. 

North Korean leader Kim Jung-un (Yonhap)

“What we lost out in the first half of the year is management of expectations. We created expectations that things will move faster and more positively than was likely,” said Freedman, a strategic studies scholar and member of the Privy Council of the UK.

“I think part of any meeting should be to keep the conversation going, to see what practical steps can be taken. But not to take bold initiatives, that directly challenge the Americans.”

Freedman also raised skepticism about the US-North Korea summit held on June 12 in Singapore, saying that Trump’s belief in his ability to make deals, and later his tendency not to admit error, played a part in setting unrealistic goals.

“The role of nuclear weapons in all of this is not only one about security, it’s not only about demonstrating technical prowess. It also gives North Korea a standing it would not otherwise have,” Freedman said, adding that the meeting validated North Korea’s status as a nuclear-armed state.

“The meeting itself validated the program, yet the purpose, ostensibly from the American side, was to get rid of the program. Which is one reason many of us were skeptical.”

According to Freedman, Trump’s blaming the Chinese for lack of progress in denuclearization talks is an attempt to show that the current situation is not due to his error of judgment, but due to interference by other parties.

The British scholar also presented his view that Trump’s top advisers on North Korea-related issues do not share his views.

Describing Secretary of Defense James Mattis as a “status quo man,” Freeman said that he does not believe the former US marine expects significant results from the talks with Pyongyang.

Regarding Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Freedman said that he is invested in diplomacy and that he would like to broker a deal with Pyongyang. According to Freedman, at the other end of the scale is national security adviser John Bolton, who considered North Korea to be untrustworthy from the very outset.

By Choi He-suk (