There is evidence that Pyongyang already has shrugged off the threat of unending U.S. sanctions. Even as Trump and Kim met for the third time, activity continued at the uranium-enrichment plant at North Korea’s Yongbyon Nuclear Scientific Research Center, according to 38 North.
Know This: North Korea Isn't Desperate for a Nuclear Deal with America
North Korea hardly is desperate to negotiate an agreement with the United States ending or even merely limiting North Korea’s nuclear-weapons program.
“Pyongyang would certainly appreciate the lifting of sanctions, a peace treaty, investment and trade, but it has other options, too,” an analyst from 38 North, a think-tank associated with the Washington, D.C. Stimson Center, explained in a July 2019 report.
38 North’s assessment of the geopolitical dynamics around North Korea comes just a few weeks after U.S. president Donald Trump on June 30, 2019 stepped across the Demilitarized Zone separating North and South Korea and shook hands with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un.
Trump is the first U.S. president to step foot in North Korea. But is handshake with Kim, as well as two previous Trump-Kim meetings on foreign soil, legitimized Kim’s brutal rule while doing nothing to halt North Korea’s nuclear program.
“Misinterpreting North Korea’s situation is dangerous,” 38 North’s analyst added. “If talks are based on the assumption that Pyongyang needs a deal, and that it believes it can only reach one with Trump, then it would be tempting to believe that concessions can be extracted from the North Koreans before the 2020 U.S. presidential election.”
“If he is not reelected, and that is a big ‘if,’ the window of opportunity will have closed.”
But Kim might already have gotten from Trump everything he wanted, all without giving away anything. He might not fear the effects of ongoing sanctions or the consequences of passing up the opportunity to lift those sanctions.