North Korea’s Overconfidence: Korea Times

North Korea may be counting too much on its nuclear weapons program and getting its way through “negotiation through strength,” explains Kim Yoo-chul for the Korea Times. An opening for normalization of relations provided by South Korea and the United States will only last so long, suggests South Korea analysts, with professor of international relations Leif-Eric Easley suggesting that holding out for more economic concessions could be risky. Talks with the South Korea and the United States opened doors with China and Russia, but the major powers recognize that the isolated state is attempting to play countries off one another and they could step back at any tie. Meanwhile, North Korea must worry about a troubled economy and sanctions that target the country’s elite. “Washington expects Pyongyang to demonstrate a detailed decision to denuclearize, fully and verifiably, before it could get major economic incentives, while North Korea expects the United States to lift the sanctions before taking detailed denuclearization steps in accordance with such guidelines set by Washington,” Kim Yoo-chul reports. South Korea continues to work on alternatives, the US seeks dialogue and the international community overlooks human rights abuses. – YaleGlobal

North Korea’s Overconfidence: Korea Times

North Korea, relying on delays and demands with global powers, may be too cocky and discover that an opening for normalized relations lasts only so long
Kim Yoo-chul
Thursday, May 2, 2019

Human Rights Watch report on North Korea
Human Rights Watch: North Korea remains one of the world’s most repressive states, and in his seventh year in power, Kim Jong-un continues to exercise almost total political control

The Korea Times: North Korea is too confident in the denuclearization talks and its brand of "negotiation through strength" is more arrogance than strategy with potentially destabilizing consequences, experts said Tuesday. "The window provided by the Trump and Moon administrations is closing, and headwinds for the North Korean economy are building. If the Kim regime's overconfidence leads it to believe time is on its side, it is likely to make further miscalculations. The North continues to seek more for less," Leif-Eric Easley, a professor of international studies at Ewha Womans University, said.

The professor said Kim Jong-un "should meaningfully respond to engagement" while he can, as future terms of economic concessions may not be as generous. "North Korea's bargaining strategy tends to seek new concessions by playing its rivals off each other, presenting artificial deadlines, threatening to cancel positive exchanges, raising tensions and repackaging earlier concessions," the professor said.

"Kim Jong-un has domestic politics to worry about and wants the Hanoi no-deal summit to be understood as a U.S. loss. It would be a mistake for North Korea's leadership to wait out its current counterparts or believe a top-down approach can substitute for working-level progress on denuclearization."

He said the recent Pyongyang-Moscow summit was Kim Jong-un's attempt to raise North Korea's profile as the denuclearization dialogue with Washington and Seoul is not going his way. Easley stressed the North was exaggerating its nuclear capabilities to gain an advantage.

Korea National Diplomatic Academy professor Kim Han-kwon said Kim's recent adjustment of his posture toward Trump by hinting at the possibility of a third U.S.-North Korea summit was a "courageous decision" meaning the other side will do more than they offered for less than they requested in Vietnam.

"Too much confidence will leave the entire dialogue process in vain, which isn't a good scenario for Kim Jong-un. Washington can apply tougher enforcement of the United Nations Security Council sanctions against North Korea. Although Russia and China have their permanent seats in the council, their leverage isn't at the level to twist the entire process," the South Korean professor said.

Washington expects Pyongyang to demonstrate a detailed decision to denuclearize, fully and verifiably, before it could get major economic incentives, while North Korea expects the United States to lift the sanctions before taking detailed denuclearization steps in accordance with such guidelines set by Washington. 

"Complete denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula will only be achieved through economic development of North Korea. In order to avoid further backtracking in the process, President Moon Jae-in is asked to present workable alternatives. That will also help Kim Jong-un lower his overconfidence in assessing the issue," Kim said.

Washington is showing its repeated desire to continue dialogue with Pyongyang. Trump made a rare move of sending greetings to the North regarding the 107th birthday of the North's founder Kim Il-sung, who is also the grandfather of Kim Jong-un.

Meanwhile, the United States has taken further steps to not "unnecessarily offend" Pyongyang through its inaction regarding the latest report from the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights and the report by the Special Rapporteur to the U.N. Human Rights Council detailing the abuses of North Korea of its citizens. 

Experts said without a doubt, Washington has acknowledged Kim Jong-un's sensitivity on this issue as it is weighing more to keep the momentum of nuclear diplomacy working.

Read more about North Korea’s economy from the New York Times.

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