Trump-Kim meeting raises hopes, doubts - GulfToday

Trump-Kim meeting raises hopes, doubts

Donald Trump with Kim Jong-un

Donald Trump walks with Kim Jonh-Un at the DMZ. Reuters

It’s the twists and turns that make any diplomacy tricky and yet interesting. Two years of roller-coaster negotiations between the United States and North Korea has reached that stage where Donald Trump has become the first sitting US president to set foot in North Korea.

He not only met the North Korean leader, Kim Jong Un, in the Demilitarised Zone (DMZ) between the two Koreas but also agreed to resume stalled nuclear talks.

While any attempt to achieve peace through dialogue should be wholeheartedly welcomed, it is not easy to erase persisting doubts about the future of the negotiations and the North’s willingness to give up its stockpile of nuclear weapons, especially considering Pyongyang’s maverick behaviour so far.

It is the same North Korea that has pursued nuclear and missile programmes for years in defiance of UN Security Council resolutions.

From the days of issuing personal taunts of “Little Rocket Man” (by Trump) and “mentally deranged US dotard” (by Kim) and threats to destroy each other, the two leaders have come a long way.

The “excellent relationship” between the two, though, has failed to yield the desired results so far.

Since the Hanoi summit collapse, Pyongyang has accused Washington of acting in “bad faith” and given it until the end of the year to change its approach, and last month fired short-range missiles for the first time since November 2017.

In recent months Pyongyang has also slammed Trump’s top aides — National Security Adviser John Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo — and demanded their removal from talks.

Merely hours after the US Special Representative on North Korea, Stephen Biegun, arrived in South Korea for talks in May, North Korea welcomed the envoy to Seoul by firing two missiles.

That turned out to be Pyongyang’s second launch in less than a week as it sought to up the ante in deadlocked nuclear negotiations with Washington.

Substantive talks between the countries have largely broken down after the last Trump-Kim summit in Hanoi, which ended early when the leaders hit an impasse.

Key points of contention between the two sides remain. North Korea has balked at Trump’s insistence that it give up its weapons before it sees relief from crushing international sanctions.

The US, on its part, insists that North must submit to complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearizsation before sanctions are lifted.

The North has yet to provide an accounting of its nuclear stockpile, let alone begin the process of dismantling its arsenal.

It is true that Pyongyang has offered to close part of its Yongbyon nuclear centre, but experts say it has other facilities producing material for weapons.

It is increasingly obvious that Kim is seeking an upper hand in future talks. Since March 2018, the North Korean leader has held four meetings with Chinese President Xi Jinping, three with South Korea’s Moon Jae-in, three with Trump and one with Vietnam’s president.

The claims and counter-claims by the two countries earlier kept the world wondering in which direction the talks were heading.  

Trump’s latest statement that economic sanctions on North Korea would remain is a key pointer to the fact that there has been no major breakthrough as yet. It’s obvious that there is a long way to go.

At the end of the day, what matters is the fundamental goal of denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula. If Trump and Kim could actually achieve that, their reality show theatrics could be forgiven.

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