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(EDITORIAL from Korea Times on May 15)

All Headlines 07:01 May 15, 2018

Economic rewards
US offers bigger carrot for North's denuclearization

The United States has hinted at providing not only security assurances, but also generous economic incentives to North Korea if the latter meets U.S. demands for immediate and complete denuclearization. This is raising hopes that U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un will strike a grand bargain at their summit to be held in Singapore on June 12.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has heightened these by saying that Washington will allow the American private sector to invest in North Korea if the Kim regime agrees to completely dismantle its nuclear weapons program. His remarks came after he visited Pyongyang for a second time last week, and had last-minute negotiations with Kim to set the time and place for the first summit between a sitting U.S. president and a North Korean leader. He returned with three Americans detained in the North.

Some experts and officials speculate that Washington and Pyongyang have agreed in principle to the North's full denuclearization in return for security guarantees for the Kim regime. Pompeo's remarks implied that the two sides might have gone further to agree on how to denuclearize the North and how to compensate for complying with what the U.S calls for: complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization.

Yet it is difficult to confirm whether such speculation is true. What's clear is that Washington is at least trying to offer such attractive incentives to Pyongyang that the North's leadership will find them hard to turn down. This can be all the more true when the North said that it had reached a "satisfactory" agreement with the U.S. when Pompeo met with Kim last Wednesday.

Pompeo even said Sunday that the U.S. would agree to lift sanctions on the North if the latter commits to completely dismantling its nuclear arsenal. He apparently signaled that Washington might soften its hard-line position that it would stick to maximum pressure and sanctions until Pyongyang gives up its nuclear and missile program completely.

Such a seemingly eased U.S. stance is likely to give more room for the two adversaries to strike a big deal at the upcoming summit. This might reflect President Trump's determination to make the summit a success even though he officially sticks to his much-avowed principle of denuclearization before sanctions lifting. Trump, a businessman-turned-president, must have kept in mind his signature "art of the deal."

Pompeo's idea of economic incentives for Pyongyang includes the U.S. private sector's help to rebuild the North's dilapidated energy grid, develop the country's infrastructure and boost its agriculture sector. If the idea is translated into action, North Korea could enjoy economic prosperity that will rival that of South Korea. Pompeo also promised not to seek regime change in the North.

We hope Kim will accept this formula so that he can bring economic wellbeing to North Koreans and move toward peace and co-prosperity on the peninsula.

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