Speculations rise over cost of North Korea denuclearisation

File photo showing a North Korean military vehicle carrying a ballistic missile during a parade in Pyongyang, on April 15, 2017.
File photo showing a North Korean military vehicle carrying a ballistic missile during a parade in Pyongyang, on April 15, 2017. PHOTO: REUTERS

SEOUL (KOREA HERALD/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - With the US-North Korea summit set for June 12, questions over who will shoulder the cost of denuclearisation are rising.

Publicly, the cost of dismantling North Korea's nuclear weapons programme, and who will cover it, has yet to be discussed by the concerned countries.

According to one estimate, the cost of dismantling North Korea's nuclear weapons programme could be at least five times higher than that of Ukraine.

In the 1990s, the US offered Ukraine US$175 million to help cover the cost of dismantling its nuclear arsenal. At the time, Ukraine reportedly had over 1,800 nuclear warheads produced before the fall of the Soviet Union.

The overall cost, borne by the international community, is estimated to be about US$460 million.

A recent study by Kwon Hyuk Chul of Kookmin University suggests that the overall costs, those arising from dismantling of weapons to indirect costs such as economic aid, would come to about US$20 billion.

Of the total, Kwon estimates that the direct costs - dismantling existing nuclear weapons and disabling research facilities - would come to about US$5 billion, spread out over a number of years.

Despite US President Donald Trump's comments that North Korea appears open to denuclearising quickly, experts say that the process will likely take years.

Speaking to reporters after his meeting with North Korea's Kim Yong Chol, Mr Kim Jong Un's right-hand man, Trump said that he believes that North Korea is open to denuclearising quickly.

"Well, I think they want to do that. I know they want to do that," he said when asked if he thinks North Korea will denuclearise "all at once."

A recent study from Stanford University's Centre for International Security and Cooperation, however, suggests that a complete denuclearisation would require 10 years or more to achieve.

 
 
 

The study suggests a comprehensive roadmap that covers all phases of denuclearisation from stopping tests to redirecting North Korean personnel involved in the nuclear weapons programme.

According to reports, South Korean intelligence community estimates that North Korea's nuclear weapons workforce stands at about 3,000 individuals including 200 experts of the field.

The cost of denuclearisation, however, will not end with dismantling North Korea's nuclear weapons programme.

South Korea's Moon Jae In administration, which played the role of a matchmaker between Pyongyang and Washington, hopes to go beyond denuclearisation and establish permanent peace on the Korean Peninsula.

While the US has hinted at economic aid and allowing private sector investment in the North, Trump recently noted that much of the burden will have to be shouldered by Seoul.

"No, I don't think the United States is going to have to spend. I think South Korea will do it. I think China - I think, frankly, China will help out," Trump said in response to the question whether he will offer economic aid at his meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

He went on to say that Japan will also shoulder some of the economic aid, stressing that the US will not be "spending a lot of money".

According to a report by London-based investment firm Eurizon SLJ Capital, achieving denuclearisation and lasting peace on the peninsula could require as much as US$2 trillion over the course of 10 years.

The model assumes reunification of the Koreas, and uses the model of German unification.