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Vietnam Summit Reflections: A Conversation with Lindsay Lloyd and Jieun Pyun

Human Freedom experts Lindsay Lloyd and Jieun Pyun discuss last week’s U.S.-North Korea Summit, Lindsay bringing decades of policy experience, and Jieun bringing a South Korean perspective.

Article by Miriam Spradling and Ioanna Papas March 4, 2019 //   4 minute read

Lindsay Lloyd: When I look at the results of these summits, I’m reminded how weve tried for several presidential administrations to find an accommodation with North Korea. Over the last 20 years, it has gotten worse, not better. North Korea has embarked on a program to develop and deploy nuclear weapons. They have an enormous arsenal of chemical and biological weapons and have steadily been ramping up their ability to wage warfare. 

The George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama administrations have all tried to stop North Korea through negotiations and sanctions, and nothing has worked. I give President Donald Trump credit for trying something different, but we have not seen results.  

We have had two high-level summits. We have had several senior level meetings with the Secretary of State, Special Envoy Stephen Biegun, and so on. But there is nothing there at this point. Despite the proclamations that North Korea is no longer a threat, intelligence officials are saying they still are very much a threat. They have not dismantled any weapons. All that capacity is still there.  

Talking was fine, but they needed an outcome or we were wasting our time. For decades North Korea has wanted to have this kind of recognition, and when the President of the United States treats their dictator as an equal, that gives them something they’ve craved for a very long time.  

Jieun Pyun: From a Korean perspective, I was sad to hear the news from Hanoi. This proves Kim was not ready for denuclearization.  

I’m glad President Trump didn’t compromise and sign a rushed agreement lifting sanctions and letting North Korea keep their nuclear weapons. But what will happen if nothing gets accomplished during South Korean President Moon and President Trump’s time in office? I am worried we will go back to the era of consistent provocation from the North. If North Korea decides to go on that path, the peninsula will once again be under fear of potential war. It’s not a good situation for Koreans. 

Although some of the economic sanctions on North Korea are related to nuclear issues, Im glad that some are also tied to human rights issues. Knowing that provides comfort to someone like me who has family in South Korea and who cares about the freedom of the North Korean people. We know that for sanctions to be lifted, North Korea would have to improve its human rights situation. It was wise for Congress to set those barriers for the North Korean regime. 

We hear the argument a lot that North Korea won’t accept negotiations if human rights are on the table, it’s better for us to start with something else and work up to human rights. What concerns me about this approach is if you see things in that way then you are seeing North Korea’s problem as an economic system problem. It’s not the economic system of North Korea that we believe is creating this problem, it is the regime which oppresses its own people’s freedom. We need to find a way to address that. 

LL: The sanctions on North Korea have ramped up a lot over the last three or four years, since the publication of the UN’s Commission of Inquiry report. Many of the sanctions we have are related to the nuclear threat. North Korea has violated international agreements and for that reason they face strong U.S. economic sanctions. There are also a host of sanctions applied to human rights abuses. 

When President Trump said North Korea could become an economic power, it overlooked the fact that even if North Korea got rid of its nuclear weapons, they would still have to comply with a whole series of sanctions that are based on their horrific human rights record.  

Those sanctions aren’t going away anytime soon. They weren’t discussed at all in Singapore or Vietnam. Until they are addressed there is no way an AT&T, a General Foods, or a Boeing will open a North Korean factory.  

Other countries standards are not as high, and this is a big concern. The South Korean government is pushing hard to open lines of trade. They want a new railway line connecting the north and south, and they want to open the Kaesong Industrial Complex, which is a big South Korean investment in North Korea. They are hopeful that they will eventually have more economic exchanges with North Korea, but from the U.S. perspective, that cannot happen by law until North Korea starts treating its people with dignity. 

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