Why North Korea Denuclearization Is Such a Long Shot

North Korea denuclearization efforts have been at the forefront of the international agenda for more than two years, but there is little progress so far. Critics say the Trump administration has a flawed approach to the negotiations—and the U.S. trade war with China isn’t helping. Meanwhile, North Koreans continue to suffer.

Ending North Korea’s nuclearization efforts has been at the forefront of the international agenda for more than two years now. But despite improved relations between North and South Korea and two unprecedented face-to-face meetings between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, there has been no clear progress toward North Korea denuclearization.


Trump has framed the meetings and his personal relationship with Kim as a promising start to a potential breakthrough, but critics point to the lack of headway so far, which they blame on the Trump administration’s flawed approach to the negotiations. For his part, Kim refuses to even begin drawing down the program that is essentially his regime’s only bargaining chip unless the international community drops its sanctions. Hard-liners in Washington, on the other hand, would like to see meaningful steps toward denuclearization before they lift any restrictions.

The trade war between China and the United States is likely to hamper negotiations further, as Chinese President Xi Jinping is one of the few leaders with any leverage over Kim due to North Korea’s economic dependence on China. South Korea has struggled to maintain the earlier diplomatic momentum, without much to show for its engagement with its northern neighbor.

With global sanctions still in place, North Korean citizens continue to suffer. A recent report from United Nations human rights officials reveals a population dependent on informal but officially tolerated markets and subjected to constant bribery demands from North Korean officials. The World Food Program has estimated that 10.1 million North Koreans are suffering from food shortages.

WPR has covered North Korea in detail and continues to examine key questions about what will happen next. How long will Trump continue to pursue diplomatic engagement with North Korea? Will Seoul be able to seize on its opening with Pyongyang to further improve relations despite ongoing sanctions? What role will Trump’s talks with Kim play in the upcoming U.S. presidential election? Below are some of the highlights of WPR’s coverage.


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