The prospects for North Korea denuclearization negotiations have become pessimistic as the United States is turning more lenient toward the reclusive regime.
James Bindenagel, an international security expert based in Germany, is one of the pessimists who expect that the nuclear talks are unlikely to succeed.
His skepticism is based on North Korea's history of breaking promises over the past decades by delaying negotiations for key processes, such as the declaration of nuclear sites and verification agreements.
Bindenagel is currently the Henry Kissinger Professor for Governance and International Security at Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms University in Bonn, Germany.
"We saw no progress from North Korea from Pompeo's empty handed return from Pyongyang, without a meeting with Kim," he added. "Kim won recognition and gave up nothing. Denuclearization of the North is less likely."
The pessimistic view came as U.S. President Donald Trump said Tuesday in Russia that there was no hurry to denuclearize the North, a shift from his earlier stance calling for speedy denuclearization.
In a cabinet hearing Wednesday, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also said that denuclearization will not come soon, saying, "There's a lot of work to do. It may take some time to get where we need to go."
The former U.S ambassador to Germany believes that Pompeo's visit to Pyongyang in early July was a good indicator that ongoing nuclear talks will fall by the wayside.
|U.S. President Donald Trump listens as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, left, speaks during a cabinet meeting on Wednesday at the White House in Washington, D.C. / AFP PHOTO|
"The North has no firm commitment to give up its nuclear weapons and Kim chose not to meet Pompeo to begin talks," he said.
"There are not even confidence building measures that could lead to trust in Kim. In fact, the return of the remains of U.S. soldiers from the Korean War gives little hope of progress on nuclear issues."
Another reason behind Bindenagel's skepticism is Kim Jong-un's remarks about denuclearization at the historic summit with President Trump in Singapore on June 12.
"Kim stated his goal was denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, not North Korea's denuclearization, which would end the U.S. guarantee for South Korea, which has the U.S. forces with the nuclear deterrent," he said.
He pointed out that Kim's demand for denuclearization of the peninsula would alter the geo-strategic position of China, the U.S. and Japan.
"Kim can stoke the fires of nationalism at home with the support of growing nationalism in China, accelerated by the Trump tariffs. The warning is clear _ first tariffs, then war," he said.
WTO becomes nominal
Bindenagel forecasts that trade confrontations between the U.S. and China will further escalate as the World Trade Organization (WTO) is losing its capability to mediate international disputes.
"The international trading system currently teeters on collapse as the WTO, driver of worldwide prosperity, and ensurer of fair trade, has lost its function," he said.
"In an increasingly globalized world, the WTO faces vacancies of judges that will render it unable to carry out its rule-enforcing role."
The tension between the two economic giants deepened after China announced Monday that it had filed a complaint to the WTO when Trump threatened to levy tariffs on an additional $200 billion worth of Chinese goods.
Bindenagel believes that Trump is not wrong in identifying China's protected trading position, in that China, a WTO member since 2001, benefits unfairly with protectionist policies from its status as a developing country, while having become the second largest economy in the world.
The problem of tit for tat tariffs, according to Bindenagel, is that escalation feeds anti-globalist populism that left unchecked will undermine economic prosperity, which is not possible without trade.
"The escalation of tariffs easily leads to militant nationalism, illiberalism, protectionism and xenophobic reaction against others," he said.
From his perspective, Trump's tariffs are designed to create a few winners and to ignore the losers.
"Historically, protectionist tariffs were tried in the 1930s. The Trump tariffs evoke the memory of the Smoot-Hawley tariffs that were imposed in a zero-sum game," he said.
"That is the same playbook as today with Trump. History repeats itself, first as tragedy, then as farce."