Has Trump Failed in North Korea? Pyongyang Says It Will Not Give Up Nukes Without U.S. Demilitarization

For all his boasting and bluster, President Donald Trump's North Korea strategy has produced little in the way of material results. Kim Jong Un's authoritarian regime retains its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile armories, while rampant human rights abuses continue within the secretive state's borders.

Despite the inaction, both Washington and Pyongyang have largely stuck to the vague script agreed to at the Trump-Kim Singapore summit in June, where Kim affirmed his "unwavering commitment to complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula" in exchange for American "security guarantees."

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But follow-up talks have struggled to build on the ambiguous statement, and North Korea declared Thursday it would never give up its nuclear weapons unless the U.S. takes reciprocal steps, The Associated Press reported.

"The United States must now recognize the accurate meaning of the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, and especially, must study geography," the statement carried by the North's official Korean Central News Agency said.

"When we talk about the Korean Peninsula, it includes the territory of our republic and also the entire region of [South Korea] where the United States has placed its invasive force, including nuclear weapons. When we talk about the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, it means the removal of all sources of nuclear threat, not only from the South and North but also from areas neighboring the Korean Peninsula," the North's statement read.

The U.S. removed all tactical nuclear weapons from South Korea in the 1990s. In 2017, when the threat of war with North Korea rose amid diplomatic tensions, South Korean Defense Minister Song Young-moo suggested such weapons could be redeployed to the South, but this step was never agreed to.

North Korea rocket launch south korea
A television screen shows video footage of a North Korean missile launch at a railway station in Seoul, South Korea, on November 29, 2017. President Donald Trump’s North Korea strategy has produced little in the way of material results. JUNG YEON-JE/AFP/Getty Images

Neither Washington nor Seoul issued an immediate response to the North Korean statement, while the U.S. A State Department spokesperson told Newsweek they remain confident the commitments made by Trump and Kim at the Singapore summit will be fulfilled.

North and South Korea are working on a range of cross-border projects—from a joint railway to an Olympic Games bid. But the surprising thaw in relations has yet to produce any concrete steps toward significant disarmament. Pyongyang's latest statement threatens to undermine the cooperative spirit South Korean officials have been keenly fostering over the past year.

Longtime North Korea-watchers were always skeptical that Pyongyang would give up the nuclear weapons it invested so much money and time to secure. The atomic armory gives the North a trump card against outside pressure and leverage to push for a peace treaty officially ending the Korean War and even the removal of the 28,500 U.S. troops stationed in the South.

Negotiations between Washington and Pyongyang have stalled amid North Korea's refusal to supply the U.S. with a detailed account of its nuclear and missile facilities. Washington wants these to be inspected and dismantled before it will lift sanctions on Pyongyang, but North Korea insists that sanctions must be lifted first.

An infographic produced by online statistics firm Statista indicated the most significant known elements of North Korea's nuclear infrastructure, including uranium enrichment facilities, research centers and high explosive test sites. Confirmation of the location, size and use of each site is a key U.S. demand in the ongoing talks.

This article has been updated to include a response from the State Department.

Statista North Korea nuclear infrastructure
This infographic shows North Korea's known nuclear infrastructure as of 2018. Statista