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An Gang (Trump-Kim Summit)

Apr 11, 2018
  • An Gang

    Adjunct Fellow, Center for International Security and Strategy, Tsinghua University

I think the Kim-Trump summit will take place and believe that it is already a firm political decision for both sides.

President Trump’s primary goal in 2018 is to rack up some visible (even if short-term) wins to see the Republicans through the mid-term elections, and provide a foundation for his reelection. Therefore, though offended by South Korea’s push for reconciliation, Trump was pragmatic enough to take the ball thrown to him by Moon Jae-in and Kim Jong-un. At the same time he loudly proclaims the benefits of US sanctions, trying to claim credit for making North Korea negotiate.

Considering that domestic political factors are obviously behind Trump’s about-face, he will certainly encounter opposition at home. Which White House supports the dialogue? Trump’s? Or the White House of the establishment Republicans? Will the anti-DPRK hawks and military intelligence departments once again create obstacles?

The North Korean nuclear issue is only one of the problems the Korean Peninsula faces. Kim Jong-un only promised the US that he will suspend nuclear missile tests during the talks. What he said about “honestly want[ing] to abandon nuclear weapons” and “having no reason to own nuclear weapons as long as the system security is guaranteed” is nothing but lip-service. It is still a far cry from the threshold set by the US for accepting the invitation for talks. When Trump confirmed that the two sides were planning a meeting, the White House made it clear that “Trump will not meet with Kim unless North Korea takes substantial and credible actions towards denuclearization”. This is a sign of establishment Republicans and military intelligence personnel containing Trump’s hasty shift.

Trump and Kim will exchange some oral and even written promises with each other which can be labeled as a “historic breakthrough”, but who knows if they would sacrifice the long-term interests of the international community for their own short-term benefit? Can any arrangement they make be feasible without the involvement of other parties? If Trump promises security and large bailouts to North Korea, will those things reward Pyongyang for developing nuclear weapons and become a form of tacit permission for it to be a nuclear state? All these problems will gradually surface as the talks move forward.

In the long run, with the supervision of directly related parties, and the precondition that North Korea and the US make reliable commitments to each other’s safety, the only way to realize sustainable peace and prosperity in Northeast Asia is to solve the nuclear issue and normalize relations among the parties once and for all.

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