Denuclearisation is an essential requirement for global peace and security, but it doesn’t seem likely to happen any time soon.
Global efforts, including international treaties such as the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), have failed not only to lead to a drastic reduction in the number of nuclear weapons but also to stop proliferation.
The recent statements and actions of US President Donald Trump have contributed to this reality.
In his first official phone call with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Trump called the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) signed less than a decade ago a “bad deal”, provoking speculation on whether he intended to cancel it. Then, in February this year, his administration announced that it was going to allocate $11bln in the 2019 budget to modernise the US nuclear arsenal.
In May, after months of threats and hostility, Trump decided to pull out of the JCPOA – Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action – a non-proliferation agreement concluded with Iran, despite the protests of his European allies.
Despite his questionable commitment to non-proliferation, in June, the US president embarked on a long process to negotiate the denuclearisation of North Korea. He met North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Singapore and, of course, did not hesitate to make grand declarations and take credit for an historic “breakthrough”.
But does he really think that North Korea did not watch closely what happened with Iran? And does he expect Pyongyang to actually trust him, given the track record of his and previous US administrations?
Washington’s double standards
A glance at so-called denuclearisation efforts reveals that the US has long been exercising double standards when dealing with different states. Otherwise, why would Washington not ask Israel to open its clandestine nuclear weapons programme to international monitoring and inspection?
Israel is not even a signatory to the NPT or any other international agreement or pact that brings its nuclear undertakings under scrutiny. It has always been at war with its neighbours and has been massacring Palestinians for seven decades now. It is currently believed to be in possession of several hundred nuclear warheads.
Iran, on the other hand, has not attacked another country in its recent history and has been under a record number of inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
While the US has shown an encouraging silence on Israel’s military nuclear capability that has, one way or another, persuaded the country to continue developing its atomic arsenal, it has put intensifying pressures on Tehran over alleged nuclear proliferation plans.
When Iran finally negotiated a deal to lift some of the pressure, the US found it hard to keep to its commitments. Despite claims that Trump’s predecessor, President Barack Obama, was seeking a win-win deal for all parties involved, Washington started violating the agreement right from the start.
First, in December 2015, just months after the signing of the JCPOA, Obama started implementing a law which prevented foreign citizens who have been to Iran from entering the US without a visa, which went against the principles of the deal. Then, a year later, Obama allowed the Iran Sanction Act to become a law – again in flagrant violation of the JCPOA’s provisions.
Then Washington’s closest ally, the UK, also reneged on its promise and obligation to supply yellowcake to Iran.
That Trump eventually discarded an internationally-endorsed nuclear deal without the other side committing a single violation perhaps should not come as a surprise to us.
After all, Trump is a true manifestation of Washington’s maximalist approach to foreign policy – in both relations and deals – which entails receiving all the benefits and granting no concessions.
A brief look at his administration’s list of 12 demands from Tehran, issued after withdrawing from the nuclear deal, shows his appetite for catastrophic success in diplomacy.
This has been undoubtedly taken into consideration by the North Koreans.
Why North Korea should distrust the US
Trump’s whimsical decision to kill the Iran nuclear deal adds to a long list of cases which show that international respect for non-proliferation as a crucial requirement for the promotion of global peace and stability fails to cross the boundary of words at UN-related summits or scholarly events.
In this sense, it is important to note that North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un is stepping into protracted talks with the US after having witnessed its disloyalty to a hard-negotiated nuclear deal with Iran.
There might have been big words and promises made at the Singapore meeting, but Kim is not naive. Undoubtedly, it is clear to him that the US – like other nuclear powers – pushes for denuclearisation and non-proliferation in order to wear out its perceived adversaries and not because its leadership is truly committed to achieving a nuclear-free world.
In fact, North Korea itself has a long history of being let down by successive US administrations – most recently by the Clinton administration and its six-party talks that amounted to nothing in the end.
By cancelling war games with South Korea, Trump is perhaps hoping that Pyongyang will reciprocate with some major concession. But confidence-building doesn’t happen with a single gesture and a Trump-style charm offensive.
US foreign policy is seriously lacking in trustworthiness and credibility on the international scene and Trump is the last person in the world that can fix that.
Kim knows, probably better than anyone else, that once he drops his trump card, he will be left with no other means to prevent the US from pursuing regime change in his country.
The truth is, the White House and the Pentagon have never dropped their commitment to the Paul Wolfowitz Doctrine. Containment followed by bullying and pressure through sanctions, threats and excessive use of force to undermine so-called rogue states and eventually enforce regime change in them has always been the main, or rather, the only agenda of successive US administrations.
Holding a deterrent force is the only means to resist US plots and hostile agendas based on its profound belief in the “rule of the jungle”.
And if nuclear weapons and intercontinental ballistic missiles are your only deterrent, you would be a fool to give it up for a dubious deal, especially if the other side is as untrustworthy as Washington.
And Kim Jong-un probably knows this all too well.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.