"We are cautiously optimistic that things are back on track."
Ploughshares Fund Policy Director Tom Collina appeared on BBC World News on September 19, 2018 to offer his expert opinion on the recent summit between President Moon Jae-in of South Korea, and Chairman Kim Jong-un of North Korea and efforts to denuclearize the Korean peninsula. We are proud to support small and large steps to prevent nuclear war and eventually eliminate nuclear weapons. Here is a transcript of the segment.
Let's get more now on the efforts of denuclearization coming out of the meeting between the South Korean president and the North Korean leader in Pyongyang. Joining us now from our studios in Washington, Tom Collina. He is a policy director at Ploughshares Fund, a global security foundation. Tom, thank you so much for joining us. Mike Pompeo says the US wants to immediately resume talks. So in your view are things back on track?
Tom: We are cautiously optimistic that yes, things are back on track. You know, a month ago, President Trump canceled Pompeo's trip to North Korea, saying not enough progress would be made. Once again, South Korea and President Moon stepped in to fix the situation and bring everybody back together. It looks like there was a very successful summit between President Moon and Chairman Kim in North Korea just this past two days, and Chairman Kim from the North made a very important proposal to put on the table the closure of his main nuclear facilities, and that seems to be enough for President Trump and Secretary Pompeo to want to put the talks back on again. So it looks like we're back on.
So back on denuclearizing North Korea by 2021, now looking more realistic?
Tom: I would say the talks are back on towards that goal. I would be hard pressed to say that it's likely they could achieve that by early 2021. That's a mere two years away. There's a lot to do, but let's get on with it. Every step is a step in the right direction.
Absolutely. And of course, you mentioned about Kim Jong-un promising to shut down two main sites. That's the Yongbyon and the Tongchang-ri facilities. In your view, Tom, was Kim generous here with these offerings or should he have done more?
Tom: Of course we want more to happen, we want things always to move faster, but what the Trump administration seemed to be looking for was a concrete proposal, a concrete offering from North Korea on how they were going to reduce their nuclear program. The next key step was the facilities to produce nuclear material. You'll remember the North has already agreed to stop nuclear testing and to stop missile testing, but they've still been free to produce the materials for nuclear weapons. If they close the Yongbyon nuclear facility, they would go a long way toward stopping the production of nuclear materials and therefore could not increase their arsenal so that would be a very significant step. We could always want more but it's a great step forward.
And how much should President Moon Jae-in be credited for reviving this process?
Tom: I think President Moon and South Korea deserve a huge amount of credit here. I mean, they are the ones that really started this progress this process from the beginning, from earlier this year with the Olympics until now. Every time the negotiations have run into trouble, it's been President Moon that have stepped in to fix it, so I give a huge amount of credit to President Moon but also to Chairman Kim in North Korea. Clearly the energy for this process is coming from the bilateral relationship between South Korea and North Korea. They are moving this process forward, and it looks like they just sort of revived this process from a dead-end process to one that actually now has some hope again.
Tom Collina from Ploughshares Fund, a global security foundation, joining us from Washington. Great to have you with us.