Possible US-North Korea Deal Not to Be in Pyongyang’s Interests: Russian Analyst
TEHRAN (Tasnim) – A political analyst based in Russia said given North Korea’s position of weakness ahead of direct talks with the US, any possible deal between the two sides would be detrimental to Pyongyang’s interests.
“North Korea already blew up its only nuclear testing site, and its leader raced to win back (US President Donald) Trump’s approval for the Singapore Summit instead of the reverse,” Andrew Korybko said in an interview with Tasnim News Agency.
“This implies that the US is negotiating from a position of strength while North Korea is doing so from weakness, showing which of the two wants denuclearization to happen more,” he added.
The analyst further pointed to the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers and said, “It’s specious to compare the Iranian deal with any future North Korean one because the former was negotiated from a position of strength and ultimately to Tehran’s interests while the latter is being conducted from a position of weakness that implies a strategic outcome that’s detrimental to Pyongyang’s interests.”
Korybko is a political analyst, journalist and a regular contributor to several online journals, as well as a member of the expert council for the Institute of Strategic Studies and Predictions at the People’s Friendship University of Russia.
The full text of the interview is as follows:
Tasnim: What do you think about the latest on-and-off developments concerning the US-North Korean talks, and what do you predict will happen next?
Korybko: This is an exceptionally sensitive topic for the US and North Korea because their leaders are very proud and neither of them wants to “lose face” by being disrespected by the other, which is why Pyongyang reacted to Bolton and Pence’s troubling comparison of their country’s future denuclearization with the so-called “Libyan model” and then Trump responded with his classic negotiating ploy of not being afraid to walk away from a deal. This provoked panic from Kim Jong-Un, who promptly met with his South Korean counterpart and reiterated his commitment to complete denuclearization, showing just how serious he is about what essentially amounts to his country’s strategic surrender for reasons that can only be speculated upon.
After all, North Korea already blew up its only nuclear testing site, and its leader raced to win back Trump’s approval for the Singapore Summit instead of the reverse. This implies that the US is negotiating from a position of strength while North Korea is doing so from weakness, showing which of the two wants denuclearization to happen more. The lesson that both parties learned is that their highest representatives need to watch their words in order to not provoke either side into responding with anything dramatic as a means of saving their reputations, thereby potentially endangering the forthcoming talks and complicating North Korea’s strategic surrender to the US in exchange for promised aid and investment.
Tasnim: Can you expand on the impact that Bolton and Pence’s comparison of North Korea’s denuclearization to the so-called “Libyan model” had on the forthcoming Trump-Kim summit?
Korybko: It was obviously provocative for them to use that example because it implies that North Korea will be betrayed and ultimately suffer the same destructive fate as its former North African partner despite sincerely adhering to any agreement with America. It was too threatening for Pyongyang to not respond, though Kim’s reaction was taken advantage by Trump to make the American President look like the alpha male in this arrangement. By comparison, Kim looked weak by rushing to return to the pre-cancellation progress that he made with Trump on holding next month’s Singapore Summit even though his counterpart was perfectly alright with walking away from it all.
One can only speculate why Kim is so eager to get rid of his country’s nuclear deterrent that he’s willing to do so under the disrespectful and even humiliating circumstances that Trump has placed him in after his administration’s insulting Libyan comparison, but for whatever the reason is, this also plays to the US’ strategic advantage as well. Trump knows how delicate this globally observed choreographed dance with Kim is so he will probably order his team to abstain from any further provocative statements that could counterproductively make it more difficult for the US and North Korea to reach what will probably end up being a prearranged lopsided deal between the two.
Tasnim: Given Washington’s non-commitment to such an important international deal as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) that it was previously a party to with Tehran, how likely is it that North Korea will end up agreeing to its own deal with the US during the forthcoming talks?
Korybko: It’s specious to compare the Iranian deal with any future North Korean one because the former was negotiated from a position of strength and ultimately to Tehran’s interests while the latter is being conducted from a position of weakness that implies a strategic outcome that’s detrimental to Pyongyang’s interests. These two examples are so different that they could almost be said to be opposites of one another.
The US hated the JCPOA because it was “too good” of a deal for Iran, though this was deliberate because the Obama Administration was trying to win over the “reformist” faction of the Iranian state as part of a ploy to split the country’s leadership and then facilitate a grand Mideast geopolitical reorientation. The North Korean one, however, won’t be “too good” for the country like the Iranian one was because Pyongyang cannot withstand the prolongation of UNSC sanctions after China dutifully agreed to respect them, as it lacks the natural resources that provided a “pressure valve” for Iran during its own period of sanctions.
North Korea’s less advantageous geo-economic position vis-à-vis Iran is why it will probably be offered an objectively “bad deal” that will nevertheless be disguised as a “good” one, though even that agreement will probably be violated by the US if it inadvertently results in strengthening North Korea like the Iran deal purposely did for Tehran and Washington sees a perfect opportunity to apply the “Libyan model” to Pyongyang.
DISCLAIMER: The author writes for this publication in a private capacity which is unrepresentative of anyone or any organization except for his own personal views. Nothing written by the author should ever be conflated with the editorial views or official positions of any other media outlet or institution.