Trump-Kim meeting expected to forge relationship, not to produce once-for-all solutions

Xinhua
As Trump and Kim arrived in Singapore for a historic meeting, analysts expect them to focus on forging a relationship rather than to achieve once-for-all solutions to all concerns.
Xinhua

As US President Donald Trump and the top leader of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Kim Jong Un, arrived in Singapore respectively on Sunday for a historic meeting, analysts expect them to focus on forging a relationship rather than to achieve once-for-all solutions to all concerns.

More pragmatic logic, approaches

Trump and Kim are expected to "talk about everything," from the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and its verification process to the US security assurances for and economic cooperation with the DPRK.

Trump termed his widely-anticipated meeting with Kim as a "get-to-know-you" gathering, saying that "it's going to be a process" to solve the problems considering decades of "hostility" and "hatred" between the two sides.

He also said that probably more than one meeting was necessary, and that he would consider inviting Kim to the United States for further consultations.

Analysts listed domestic politics and economic development as the largest motivations of the two nations, adding that all parties concerned, not only the DPRK and the United States, have made considerable efforts to make the Singapore meeting possible.

"North Korea, South Korea, the United States, and China have invested considerable time and effort in making the summit possible so each has an incentive to keep the conversation open," Brookings Institution Senior Fellow Darrell West told Xinhua. "It would be difficult for all involved if talks collapse and nothing takes place."

Agreement to keep talking is most tangible result

The goal of the summit "should be to set an agenda - not to finalize a deal," said Richard Haass, president of US think tank Council on Foreign Relations, in a recent article on Foreign Affairs.

"Ideally, Pyongyang and Washington would agree on a course for negotiations, possibly one composed of a limited first phase followed by broader and more ambitious phases. Consistent with this, a near-term summit could lead to the establishment of two different US-North Korean (DPRK) working groups, one to explore a grand bargain, the other to hammer out something more modest," he said.

"Rather than taking an all-or-nothing approach, the United States would be taking two approaches: a more-for-more one, and a less-for-less one," he said.

West of Brookings said "the most tangible result of the summit could be an agreement to keep talking and schedule another meeting," since "it may take several meetings to resolve the thorny issues of denuclearization, verification and US assistance." Dan Mahaffee, senior vice president and director of policy at the Center for the Study of Congress and the Presidency, also did not see a detailed roadmap of the DPRK's complete denuclearization as being a possible outcome of this meeting.

Still, "with the resumption of dialogue and, perhaps, clearer expectations, there seems to be a path forward," said Mahaffee.

Kyle Ferrier, an analyst of the Washington-based non-profit Korea Economic Institute of America, said that "one of the areas where both sides have a great shared interest and seemingly found the most common ground to make future progress is a possible peace treaty."

"A peace treaty is an obvious area to keep the momentum for diplomacy going," he said.

Obstacles ahead

Analysts said that numerous challenges would test Trump and Kim both in and after the meeting.

Melissa Hanham, a senior research associate on Nonproliferation Studies at the Middlebury Institute in California, highlighted the lack of a rigorous inspections regime for the denuclearization, saying the past such regimes in the DPRK have been bedeviled by mistrust between the DPRK and the United States.

Meanwhile, Pyongyang believes in a larger sense of denuclearization, which demands not only the DPRK, but the whole peninsula give up nuclear weapons. To Pyongyang, this means removing the threat of nuclear weapons against the country.

"It's not paranoia, because in addition to former threats to use nuclear weapons to attack North Korea (DPRK), and the more recent talk of 'decapitation' of North Korean (DPRK) leadership, the United States still flies bombers and regularly conducts war games in the region," said an article of the Council of Foreign Relations.

"Meeting North Korea (DPRK)'s desired outcome would be a long-term process," it said.

Besides all technical challenges of the denuclearization, domestic pressure of all countries concerned are also at play.

Vowing to keep its eyes "wide open" in the meeting, Washington would continue its sanctions on Pyongyang until it sees the complete denuclearization, and, "in the event diplomacy does not move in the right direction, these measures will increase," Pompeo said on June 7 at a White House press briefing.

"If accurate, this 'all before anything' sequentialism would effectively eliminate US-North Korea diplomatic prospect," warned CFR's Haass. "There was no way the summit could have succeeded so long as the Trump administration defined success as a North Korean (DPRK) agreement to total denuclearization."


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