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Analysis: N. Korea to seek large financial rewards for denuclearization

In this combination of file photos, U.S. President Donald Trump, left, is seen in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington on May 16, 2018, and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in a meeting with South Korean leader Moon Jae-in in Panmunjom, South Korea, on April 27, 2018. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, Korea Summit Press Pool via AP, File)

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is likely to seek huge financial rewards for giving up the country's nuclear arsenal because he needs massive funds to rebuild the country's tattered economy, some experts say.

Kim is scheduled to meet U.S. President Donald Trump in Singapore on June 12 to discuss the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. When a South Korean delegation visited Pyongyang in March, Kim Jong Un cited his conditions for denuclearization as "the removal of military threats and a guarantee of the regime's security." In other words, Kim wants to rule his country without threats from Washington. That is the price tag for Pyongyang's denuclearization.

According to experts, such a guarantee would normally include a declaration of the end of the Korean War and the introduction of a peace accord between North Korea and the U.S. A bilateral agreement of non-aggression and the eventual normalization of ties between the two countries would follow.

But some experts think that receiving financial assistance in return for denuclearization is part of the security guarantee North Korea is seeking. "They expanded (the concept of a security guarantee) to include the removal of all economic, social and political threats," said Choi Kang, vice president for research and a specialist on inter-Korea relations at the Asian Institute for Policy Studies in Seoul.

A wide range of items could be construed to be part of the guarantee. The refusal of outside intervention on the human rights situation in North Korea, which the international community believes is terrible, could be included, suspect some Korea watchers.

In any case, the Kim regime needs a lot of money for "governance funds" to foot the bill for the leader's favorite projects. A late 2017 document from the Pyongyang prosecutors office obtained by the Mainichi Shimbun states, "The Dear Supreme Leader Comrade Kim Jong Un has said that all organizations in charge of trading and earning foreign currency must provide 1 percent of their foreign currency revenues into the 'No. 216 Fund' (for governance) to promote the development of Samjiyon County."

Samjiyon in the northeast and Wonsan in the east are locations for "public works projects" promoted by the North Korean leader, along with the capital Pyongyang where high-rise apartments are being constructed. Kim is pushing those projects to gain public support and thus stabilize his regime.

In his meeting with South Korean President Moon Jae-in, Kim talked frankly about the dilapidated state of the North Korean railway system, indicating his interest in infrastructure development.

Economic growth is vital for the stability of the regime. That is why Kim gave up seeking the dual goals of nuclear development and economic success, focusing his attention on the economy. As Kim seeks credit for any future economic achievements, he needs a huge amount of "governance funds," according to experts. In the ongoing and future negotiations with the United States, Pyongyang is highly likely to demand economic rewards, they said.

American and North Korean negotiators have been meeting occasionally at Panmunjom along the border between the two Koreas since May 27, and the North Korean side appears to have made specific demands already. Sung Kim, the U.S. negotiator and ambassador to the Philippines, and his North Korean counterpart Choe Son Hui will continue the talks until the U.S.-North Korea summit begins.

(Japanese original by Koichi Yonemura, Foreign News Department, and Chiharu Shibue, Seoul Bureau)

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