Donald Trump‘s upcoming meeting with the leader of North Korea will likely produce some feel-good statements and a plan for further negotiations, but one expert says there’s one thing the American president can forget about: North Korea giving up its nukes.
“Make no mistake about it, the North Koreans are not going to disarm their existing arsenal,” said Mickey Bergman, who serves as vice president of the Richardson Center for Global Engagement, in an interview on this weekend’s edition of The West Block.
“They might be willing to give up the further proliferation, the development and testing of nuclear and ballistic missiles, but they will not disarm. (Nuclear capability) is the reason why they believe the president has met with them.”
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Bergman was one of the negotiators who helped secure the release of American student Otto Warmbier, who was imprisoned in North Korea in January 2016, and died after returning to U.S. soil in a coma. He said that western nations tend to interpret North Korea’s actions based on their own worldview, which leads to a fundamental misunderstanding of motivations.
“The North Koreans, and the North Korean leader, even though we like to call them irrational and crazy, are extremely rational people,” he explained, adding that the so-called Hermit Kingdom has had the same objectives for decades.
“They always wanted to meet the American president. Former American presidents said no, (and) said we will meet if we have a deal (for denuclearization).”
Trump, who was in Quebec’s Charlevoix region on Friday for the G7 leaders’ meeting, has been a different kind of president, however. He has agreed to travel to Singapore to sit down with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on Tuesday.
That is exactly what Kim wants, Bergman explained: to prove to his people he could achieve nuclear deterrence against the rest of the world. The president’s visit is proof he has succeeded.
“He is now on the global stage as the leader of a nuclear power, and not only that, in the position of the peace seeker.”
Trump, meanwhile, has said he doesn’t feel much need to prepare for the meeting, adding that “it’s about attitude.” He promised that the summit would be “much more than a photo op,” but also suggested that it would take more than one round of talks with Kim to come to an agreement about North Korea’s nuclear program.
“They have to denuke. If they don’t denuclearize, that will not be acceptable,” the president said.
Bergman said he expects the two leaders will produce “a lofty joint statement” about denuclearization, which “will have no legs, no timeframe, no mechanism for implementation. But it’s important, it establishes an intention.”
They will also probably announce a multi-year plan for further talks and the establishment of a medium or long-term relationship between their two countries. Finally, Bergman added, they may agree to a few humanitarian gestures, like the return of 5,300 sets of American remains that remained in North Korea following the Korean War.
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Overall, Bergman said, his advice to Trump is simple: try to be patient.
“Let that roll over your head. Say your piece but establish a relationship outside the formalities. Go on a walk, go have a meal, go play golf if that’s something that Kim might be willing to do … that’s where the deals will be made.”
– Watch the full interview with Mickey Bergman above.