While the prospect of negotiations between North Korea and the US are beginning to look very promising, experts say there is “no way” North Korea trusts the US and would ever sign off on its nuclear weapons program.
Early March 2018, South Korean president’s office, the Blue House, announced that North Korea’s Kim Jong Un was willing to abandon his country’s nuclear arms if certain conditions were met. The Blue House also said North Korea would suspend provocations, like nuclear and missile testing, during negotiations.
After meeting with South Korean officials, President Donald Trump seemed optimistic about the North’s proposal, and agreed to meet with Kim by May 2018, with the potential to discuss denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula.
However, experts remain skeptical of North Korea’s pledges to halt its nuclear weapons development.
John Mearsheimer, co-director of the Program on International Security Policy at the University of Chicago, said there is “no way” North Korea could trust the US enough to abandon its nuclear ambitions.
“North Korea is not going to give up its nuclear weapons,” Mearsheimer said at a lecture hosted by the Korea Foundation for Advanced Studies in Seoul on March 20, 2018, according to Yonhap. “The reason is that in international politics, you could never trust anybody because you cannot be certain of what their intentions are.”
Mearsheimer said that “there’s no way North Koreans can trust the U.S.” when it comes to a denuclearization deal. He cited examples of the US’ unsuccessful denuclearization deals in the Middle East, including Muammar Gaddafi who gave up Libya’s chemical weapons and was killed less than a decade later.
“If you were North Koreans, would you trust Donald Trump? Would you trust any American presidents?”
Mearsheimer added that there was no country that “needs nuclear weapons more than North Korea,” in order to protect its leader. While the US has not explicitly stated its intention to pursue a regime change in the North, Trump and his administration have certainly alluded to the possibility.
Mearsheimer added that North Korea was even less likely to give up their weapons in the current climate.
“Give up their nuclear weapons? I don’t think so, especially as security competition heats up in East Asia. You wanna hang on to those weapons.”