Trump lowering pressure on N.Korea weakens negotiation position with Iran

Trump announced Friday that he is in “no hurry” in negotiations to get Pyongyang to give up its nuclear program.

December 16, 2018 15:39
2 minute read.
U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un sign documents that acknowledge the

U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un sign documents that acknowledge the progress of the talks and pledge to keep momentum going, after their summit at the Capella Hotel on Sentosa island in Singapore June 12, 2018.. (photo credit: JONATHAN ERNST / REUTERS)


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“Rapid” denuclearization of North Korea is officially dead.

US President Donald Trump announced Friday that he is in “no hurry” in negotiations to get Pyongyang to give up its nuclear program.

A wide range of officials have been saying that US-North Korea nuclear negotiations could have a decisive impact on the nuclear standoff with Iran.

If the US cannot get North Korea to denuclearize, why should Iran agree to new limits to its nuclear program beyond the 2015 nuclear deal?

In many ways, Trump’s shifting position on North Korea, from demanding rapid denuclearization to being in “no hurry,” should be no surprise.

Since Trump’s July summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, Washington’s talks with Pyongyang have stalled, and the North has not taken any serious or systematic concrete steps toward denuclearization, though it did halt missile tests, release the remains of some dead Americans from the Korean War and took some other confidence-building measures.

In early November, North Korea suddenly canceled a scheduled meeting with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. US Special Representative for North Korea Stephen Biegun has yet to even meet with North Korean negotiators since his August appointment.

Meanwhile, Pompeo also admitted to the UN Security Council last week that, to date, US sanctions have not succeeded in getting Iran to roll back its nuclear program or ballistic missile testing beyond the 2015 deal’s limits.

In September, Pompeo was still trying to maintain the language of pressing for “rapid” denuclearization, while tossing out 2021 as a decidedly not rapid timeline.

This was after some Trump officials spoke in July of getting full declarations of the North’s nuclear arsenal and of rolling back large portions of its nuclear program within 90 days.

As of Friday, Trump has dispensed with the rhetorical games and admitted that his administration is locked into the same long negotiations game that other administrations have fallen into with North Korea.

Some analysts credit Trump with having a better chance still at resolving the issue by making both the carrots, the heads of state meeting in July, and sticks, a harsher economic pressure campaign than even in the past, stronger than other administrations.

With Iran, even as the Islamic Republic has been hurt economically by the US sanctions snap-back more than expected, its determination to stay within the nuclear deal without any new concessions has been unyielding.

It’s economic support from Asian countries and political support from EU countries appear to be enough to keep it afloat and to give it an opportunity to wait out the Trump administration – at least until 2021.

For Israel, this could mean that while there is more pressure on Iran than during the end of the Obama administration, the nuclear deal may remain solid.

In terms of fears of Iran continuing to improve its ballistic missiles, its advanced centrifuges for enriching uranium and preserving its right to build an industrial-size nuclear program when the nuclear deal expires, it means that Israel may gain no solace from US efforts.

Both North Korea and Iran may now be waiting games of chicken with the next crisis being only a matter of time.

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