The Denuclearization Negotiation between N. Korea and the U.S.


Welcome to KOREABRIEF. This is Korea on air. This is Professor Andrei Lancov. How do I pronounce your name? Basically, it’s your choice. Do as you like but it’s quite okay Andrei Nikolaevich Lankov any matter. It doesn’t matter. You went to Leningrad National
University yes and you’ve been teaching here at Kookimin University since 2004. Long time. Do you really like Korea? Yes, otherwise I wouldn’t be here. And you speak Korean, Chinese, Russian, English. Yes. Chinese so-so. I don’t
speak it really. I speak Korean, English, and Russian. Wow, I envy you. And you also were an
exchange student in North Korea. Yeah, for a year in the mid-80s and since then I visited a number of times. My last trip to North Korea, long trip, was last year Last year? What was that for? Just for money technically. It was just
private visit but I had the opportunity to travel a lot to talk to many people So, okay so you have a good relationship with people inside North Korea.. Not really because sometimes they like me.
Sometimes they don’t. My understanding is that currently
I’m blacklisted but it’s not. If you’re staring my life and probably not the last, in a few years, probably I would not be around but then maybe it will change. I see. Why were you blacklisted? I wouldn’t go into details.
Frankly, I sort of know what they believe and I know that what they believe is not true but well it’s a choice anyway Alright. Well, you’ve been studying
North Korea and I as a journalist have talked to you many times in the past decades. But first of all, everyone’s wondering about this
the denuclearization negotiations. I mean between North Korea and the U.S. Is this a standstill going to go on for a while?
what’s your outlook on it? Well, whenever everybody says denuclearization,
I cannot help but start laughing. Laughing? Absolutely, do you believe that North Korea is run by idiots who are dreaming about committing suicide? They’re not going to commit suicide. They are not going to commit suicide, they are not going to surrender nuclear weapons. It’s simply not an issue. Last time, we had any chances to get a non-nuclear North Korea was probably, I’m not sure, 2002. First-second nuclear crisis when they admitted the existence of the uranium enrichment program. After, there are no chances. What is the major goal of negotiations? Well, from the North Korean point of view, first of all, they see Donald Trump as a threat and opportunity. They see Trump as a threat and an opportunity. On one hand, he is an unusually dangerous American president. He is believed to be slightly irrational and unpredictable. Right or wrong? I’m not sure but it’s how he positions himself and this is how he sees it. He is seen as an American president who can theoretically authorize a military strike against North Korea because for many decades it has been an assumption that Americans would never ever strike first because North Korea will strike back at Seoul and people believe that Donald Trump doesn’t care much about
survival of the city of Seoul so he is a probably a person who can authorize a strike so he is a threat Especially, he looked dangerous in 2017 now it’s increasingly likely there back then the US president was bluffing but back in
2017 even if it was indeed a bluff it as pretty much tactically looked did really dangerous. So he was a threat. it did look dangerous. now it’s increasingly likely that back then the U.S. president was bluffing but he was quite a good a good, you know a good play, a good show yes, he is a showman after all. And on the other hand, he’a president who might accept the obvious that is that North Korea is a nuclear
state so the only way is not to you know pursue the impossible goal of
denuclearization but make some arms controlled. Of course, he’s not going to say it explicitly but there will be a lip service paid to the idea of denuclearization but he will probably he’s it’s possible that he will accept some
deal which will explicitly talk about denuclearization but implicitly accept
North Korea as a nuclear state and also give them relief from the sanctions’ pressure.
so this is the actual goal of the North Koreans doing negotiations with
the United States. First, they want to gain time. They want to make sure that
Donald, the dangerous Trump will not authorize a military strike against
their nuclear facilities. On the other hand, it still hope to make some agreement which will be probably more favorable for them than
any agreement they can realistically get from any conventional normal American
president so talks are happening.
problem is from their point of view Americans are not making enough concessions.
It’s about the time yes well and so obviously they’re waiting until the end of the
year and they will treat us with another interesting show something like we saw
in 2013 in 2017 and so so you pretty much outlined what is in
president Trump’s mind but the world is interested in what Kim Jong-un is thinking. We saw him on a white horse did you see that? He loves that white horse.
He climbed on Mt. Baekdu. Yes, symbolism because North Korean
people have been taught for decades that Mt. Baekdu is a place where the
grandfather of the current leader was riding a white horse fighting the
Japanese. it’s completely lie. His father never rode, you know. I read all the documents related to this stuff because they are now open. It’s open access. You
can go to Moscow you can read stuff how Kim Jong-un and Kim Il-Sung the grandfather wasa junior officer in the soviet army far away from Mt.Baekdu. So you could not
possibly run a horse there and to start with this story of the white horse, it
comes, is basically related to another Kim Il-Sung, Joseon, a war-lead r resistance fighter from the 1920s, whose name, Kim Il-Sung, began to use and who
was indeed a very good rider by his basic training he was a cavalryman but
forgetting about it. Common people don’t know it in North Korea. They believed
that for the grandfather of the current leader was riding white host fighting
Japanese there. So it’s a very good place to go and make some bellicose statements.
they are going to be treated as wonderful show.
There was a show and Kim jong-un goes up there right before he makes big
decisions yes and what we recently that’s what they saId. it’s what they said
and recently after doing that he said he’s going to call on a
Workers Party plenary meeting at the end of the year which means he will
probably announce something quite big. Quiet big and fury
Quiet big and fury, back to Trump? – Absolutely, they have good, too great showman.
Donal Trump is a professional showman. So don’t worry.
we are going to be treated as a wonderful show early next year which
means they major title “The Korean Peninsula on the brink of war” So, you foresee another crisis on the Korean Peninsula next year, ealry next year?
I foresee a lot of noise about crisis I’m not sure but it’s going to be a real
crisis but there will be a lot of very loud talk about crisis. So North Koreans
, their usual policy which usually works very well the North Korean government
wants to get something badly. What do they do? they manufacture a crisis. They create tension. sometimes they shoot couple of missiles. They torpedo shape
they sent a couple of commando squads but very often just rhetoric, just votes
you remember 2013 when the North Koreans officially said that Korean Peninsula is
on the brink of war when they officially advised foreigners to leave Seoul because Seoul is going to be maybe nuked maybe just you know.
And the creative western journalists came here in droves to
report on a conflict which was not going to happen which was not happening so
this is something like that I already want my students foreign students that
they will probably spend January pacifying their parents explaining them
that nothing special is happening no matter what the world media is going to
talk about. So what is at stake right now? For at this point, President Trump
doesn’t have time. He’s got all these issues back home. North Korea wants an
answer by the end of the year so you don’t think that’s going to happen
before the end of the year. They want Americans as I have said they want
Donald Trump as both a threat and opportunity, on one hand, they don’t
want him to authorize a military operation but having seen what happened
in the Middle East Probably they’ll have realized the Donald Trump
is a lot of tough talk but not much tough action so probably they’re less
afraid of himself say two years ago but still afraid
but their major goal is to push him to the negotiation table they need at least
some implicit admission of the nucleus terms at least they need sanctions to be
seriously eased and they want to get a deal of sanctions before Donald Trump
will be completely paralyzed by the impeachment and especially by the
elections so because he is not rushing this presence they are going to create a
crisis in hopes that it will start damaging his reelection chances it will
attract too much attention so he will be willing to give them something they want
him back to the negotiation table and now because other matters didn’t work
they want to blackmail him in negotiations. So where does South Korea
stand in all this? within South Korea as well that
there’s not much say in this denuclearization process from South
Korea as much as we want to think that we have an important role in it.
you don’t have any role because right now from the for the North Koreans, what is
South Korea it gets to important roles first of all, sometimes it can be a
useful messenger to deliver something to the United States but now they don’t
need messengers and second it’s a cash cow because South Korea is probably the
only country in the world which is willing if political situations right to
shower North Korea’s money they’re getting from China a bit but China is
giving them enough survival and South Korea can give much more if salvation is
right now it cannot because of sanctions so they cannot get any money from South
Korea because of sanctions South Korean efforts to help them with the United
States are pretty much well not necessarily and according to some rumors
actually South Korean government promised them something it could
not deliver in regard to Hanoi meeting so they promised obviously that
Americans will be far more accommodating than they actually brought so North
Korean government is a bit unhappy about the blue house because from their
point of view they did not keep promises related to hanging the Americans and
it’s not giving anything but citing sanctions so South Korea has knows no
leverage no value and and on top of that North Koreans understand that no matter
how much they hitting South Korea South Korea will do nothing just turn
another cheek which makes perfect sense have I been in the blue house is what I
would advise to do because if South Koreans overreact if they take a tough
stance, it will not improve the situation that we just create additional
unnecessary tensions. so they’re doing a good job in your point of view. but in very
limited opportunities they have I think they are doing a perfect job. very good.
problem is that they can do very good they are trying to make most of
tiny live leverage they have what you just said was quite interesting
you said China is helping North Korea just enough to survive is that strategic?
yes, of course, it’s their usual line a China doesn’t like North Korea. has never liked.
who did like north korea? you know I was growing in the
Soviet Union of the nineteen-eighties when everybody dislike Moscow
why? because it was a crazy Stalinist dictatorship which was making fun of
itself it would basically what I was taught in the middle school. how about
now? has the perception changed? yes to some extent you have a small number of
Russians who are sympathetic because they are nostalgic for the Communist
past and they believe wrongly that North Korea is an island surviving Island of
the Soviet style socialism it’s not the case but they don’t know it and you have
a national significant number of people who are sympathetic towards North Korea
because North Korea America anti-american and anti-american feelings
are unusually strong in Russia now much stronger than the Soviet days so we have
the logic any of our enemy is our friend so the they seen as you know a small
brave David fighting American Goliath it’s a minority view but back in the
Soviet days you would not find anything like that they were universally despised
but yes in my ideas improved still very bad but not as bad as it used to and
we’re talking about China China basically they don’t like
North Korea but it’s irrelevant. it’s irrelevant. you know people tend to talk so much about chemistry
you remember president Park geun-hye tried very hard to have good chemistry
with Chinese leaders and then some issue came, did it work? of course not because
any responsible leader of any major country he might have some personal
feelings but it’s pretty much irrelevant because if you go if you manage to get
that height, you have if you don’t know how to control your feeling you don’t get
the time if you can’t see your personal feelings is more important than
goals of your country your political party your company you’re not getting
there through these people or personal level xi jinping probably strongly
dislike schema of Kim Jung-Un there are a lot of indicators
there are persistent rumors and some stories and
after all for a long time North Koreans were biking channels, from walking channels. it’s a chance on one head one was arrested why did they say that when they
made all these accusations against him They opened and said that he was setting up to a country to china. they didn’t say Chinese say a big country nearby
yes you understand again we saw images of Xi-jinping and Kim Jong-un
taking a walk on a beach and here exactly yes because it doesn’t matter I
actually was a bit surprised when North Korea was so provocative towards China
and China was offended but it’s irrelevant now
because from the Chinese point of view North Korea is a vital battle zone
second for a while China was calculating with the Americans on North Korean issue
for about a year ten months or so the 2017 after spring 2018 and then they
returned no training, of course, they just went back to what has been their
position for decades this is North Koreans are probably nasty
place we don’t like them but it’s irrelevant we would much prefer to
have North Korea as a separate state as a buffer zone to keep American forces
first fuels away from our bubbles we don’t want to have a unified Korea which
will be nationalistic and nationalistic democracy and they may probably will
make claims or territorial claims to china
when the Korean nationalists publish 500 pages volumes
Manchuria is our land when the Korean Parliament votes for resolutions
which is essentially demanding you know reclaiming some large
chunks of Chinese territory claiming its ancient Korean land
well, of course, Chinese pay attention and they don’t want they won’t bother
solve they want division they want stability they don’t like Kim Joing-un and
they don’t like a nuclear program but its secondary so now they made a
decision to go back to what has been their line for maybe 20 years from
around 2000 it provided North Korea these 8 obviously in some cases this 8
largely grain foodstuff fuel in some cases it’s done in violation of the
existent UN sanction. absolutely but they believe that they need to keep North Korea float
at the same time in North Korea stable yes because if there is a famine they
are not certain about political stability so they are pumping some eight
into North Korean this is what they are doing but they are not going to spend a
fortune on basically you know providing for the knows North Korean government
these opportunities to dramatically develop economy it’s not what they want
recently North Korea called Japanese prime minister Abe imbecile and political
dwarf what does that mean well it’s just a North Korean way of conducting polite
negotiations so like you remember they called Donald Trump, “Dotard” did they? that was quite a popular word after that we were looking up in the dictionary, what is “Dotard”
anyway yes so basically it’s how they talk problem as Japan is pretty useless
right now Japanese people are talking about Japan pay a much compensation for
the colonial period so that’s what Japan has in mind large companies yes
but it’s politically impossible right now and in the possible future we have
abductees issue which is unsolved and probably unsolvable anytime soon
why because North Koreans return some abductees they probably still have some
Japanese whom they have kidnapped problem is that the Japanese NGOS,
not so much government but in NGOSs they have a lengthy list of abductees
it includes everybody who has gone missing as you see over last half a
century century they even if North Koreans returned all Japanese they
really have kidnapped the Japanese public will not believe that they have
memory so it all comes down to a trust issue yes and honestly they have worked
very hard to make sure that nobody will trust them to be honest so as a result
of the key issue can be solved any time soon and on top of that because of
sanctions Japan can not deliver this large compensation we are talking about
large amount 5 10 15 billion US dollars so most likely well Japan is useless so
it’s okay to be a bit provocative and offensive to a certain extent I almost
think that North Korea is enjoying the fact that Japan is almost even more
fearful of North Korea and missile tests and nuclear tests than itself
oh yes maybe about frankly well maybe but I would not always teamate their
emotional level North Korea is run by people who are tough Machiavellian very
pragmatic free from any ideology and know perfectly well what they are doing
and a capable of long-term planning very smart very smart
brutal smart efficient pragmatically if so then it’s North Korea genuine
about their talks and promises with President Trump moratorium are they are
they really going to give up their nuclear program
of course not exactly because they’re smart pragmatic realistic
Machiavellian and they know that if they surrender nuclear weapons they will
become defenseless they basically saw what happened to Libya to Qaddafii regime
in Libya because Qaddafi was proposed was given exactly the same proposal they
are getting this and he ended up he surrendered nuclear weapons then
revolution began Western countries said that they were going to
protect the common people from being slaughtered which is true he was going
to slaughter people he could not use his yes security he was
killed it was not a pretty ending oh yes absolutely and it’s I would say
extremely naive to believe that any strong man in the world after the fate
having seen the fate of Qaddafi would believe American promises and you have
to keep Saddam in mind to what happened in Iraq and we have to keep in mind that
Donald Trump’s treatment of the Iranian deal demonstrated that once you have
regime change in Washington the new government Republican a Democrat is
likely to deny to this basically discard all agreements made by the previous
administration so what’s the best that North Korea could expect from the United
States in this negotiations process right now maybe not much they just want
to have sanctions relieved in the long run their goal is clear they want to
have implicit recognition as a nuclear power pretty much like Israel India and
Pakistan and they are probably very in to negotiate arms controlled, not
denuclearization so if they are given enough money and enough political
concessions probably they will freeze nuclear program but not much more not
much more but an arms control deal do you think that is acceptable in
the international community who cares? is acceptable that December is called
are you going to accept that summer you’ll probably come in the middle of
the next year nobody cares it’s a fact it doesn’t
matter what is going to be set in Washington or London or Moscow or Beijing or any place they are a nuclear power and no Parliament in the world can
abolish the laws of nuclear physics and ballistics by the way so it’s not
acceptable tough luck you can say that the change of you know seasons is not
acceptable for you or you have some problems is the law of gravitation I see
very tough on this issue well thank you very much professor lankov for
joining us I hope you join us again yes and we hope you enjoyed conversation yes I did
well thank you for joining us this is KOREA ONAIR

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