The president tweeted after he returned from his summit with Kim Jong Un, the first time a sitting U.S. president has met with a North Korean leader.
The two leaders signed an agreement earlier this week that reads, “President Trump committed to provide security guarantees to the DPRK, and Chairman Kim Jong Un reaffirmed his firm and unwavering commitment to complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.”
Though this statement seems like a step in the right direction, North Korea has repeatedly promised to denuclearize in the past and failed to follow through. In 1994, Kim Jong Il said North Korea would halt plutonium production, but the country was later discovered to have been enriching uranium from then until 2002. In 2012, North Korea agreed to suspend nuclear tests in exchange for food aid, then reversed course two weeks later.
The recently signed statement does not specify a timeline or verification procedures to ensure that North Korea actually abandons its nuclear program.
In comparison, the Iran Nuclear Deal, signed by President Barack Obama and other European nations, detailed steps about how the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) would monitor Iran’s denuclearization and have access to inspect any sites they deemed suspicious.
North Korea has allowed IAEA inspectors into its declared nuclear complex in Yongbyon before, according to Robert Einhorn, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution’s Arms Control and Non-Proliferation Initiative. However, he said “the critical question is whether [North Korea] will permit IAEA inspectors ... to locations where nuclear facilities exist that are currently undeclared. Will it permit IAEA to go to suspect locations?”
The U.S. needs to formulate a concrete, step-by-step roadmap to achieve denuclearization in Korea, Einhorn said.
“The nuclear threat from North Korea today is exactly the same as what it was several weeks ago,” Einhorn said. “Not a single nuclear weapon has been eliminated. No concrete progress has been made toward denuclearization.”
Dismantling North Korea’s nuclear program will be a lengthy process, said Catherine Dill, a senior research associate at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies.
“It will include identifying all sites used for research, development, production, testing and deployment of various weapons systems, and then it will include designing a protocol for verifying the stopping or destruction of facilities,” Dill said.
Dill added that, “It is not something one can just declare is done.”
Trump acknowledged that his agreement with Kim Jong Un is not foolproof.
“You can’t ensure anything,” Trump said in a press conference on Tuesday after the summit. “All I can say is they want to make a deal. That’s what I do. My whole life has been deals.”