"I recall from my experience in the aftermath of the Vietnam War that this is also something that doesn’t always happen that fast, even when there’s the political will to return remains. It has to be done carefully, scientifically."
More than a month since the historic Trump-Kim summit in Singapore, doubts have been cast over the North’s commitment to actual denuclearization. Pyongyang is now insisting on getting some form of security guarantee first, while Washington says it's got to be denuclearization first. This has become a sticking point between the sides.
"Will it translate to providing a peace treaty -- as North Korea hopes -- that would give a security guarantee ahead of denuclearization?"
"I would have thought that would be part of the final package. It seems to me that once they’ve agreed they’ve taken the necessary steps to fully and completely and verifiably eliminate their military nuclear capability, then these other moves would go in to effect; the lifting of the embargo, the establishment of trading relationships. And yes indeed, a peace treaty for the Korean Peninsula."
In a possible sign of progress, satellite images have emerged indicating Pyongyang has begun dismantling a missile test site in the country's northwest. Trump reacted quickly to the news with a tweet. His comments were terse but said it all; he was "very happy." But are there credible reasons to be "very happy" at this point? The veteran diplomat doesn’t think so.
"This is one snap shot. It’s not the full picture. It probably would be imprudent to try to draw some rapid conclusion."
Negroponte says the North's denuclearization will be a long painstaking process. And he warns Washington has to be careful if it wants to achieve that objective.
"You could end up going down the slippery slope of having made a whole variety of concessions before you were assured that North Korea would go through fully with what they had agreed to. It's perhaps better and wiser on our part to go slowly with whatever concessions we choose to make, but to urge North Korea to make its decisions and to agree to dismantle its program as rapidly as possible."
Negroponte cautions that the US should not be influenced by day-to-day oscillations in opinion. While it is ultimately up to Pyongyang to take steps toward denuclearization, US diplomacy under Trump is also being put to the test for the deal to be proven real.