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Kim Jong-un knows what he wants from the summit. Does President Trump?

The Korean nuclear roller coaster: Has time run out for a summit? Brookings, Jonathan D. Pollack
Tuesday, May 29, 2018 The turbulence and drama on the Korean Peninsula over the past week defies imagination. On May 24, President Trump withdrew from his planned summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, acting almost as impulsively as when he first agreed to the meeting in early March. Following a conciliatory response from Pyongyang’s senior nuclear negotiator Kim Kye-gwan, the president two days later sharply reversed course and said that the summit might still take place.

Not to be outdone, on May 26 Kim Jong-un abruptly convened a second meeting with South Korean President Moon Jae-in on the North Korean side of the truce village of Panmunjom. The next day, American and North Korean officials began to interact on the language of a possible communiqué. Separate consultations between the United States and North Korea in Singapore were expected to begin today, on May 29, with North Korea represented by Kim Jong-un’s de facto chief of staff, Kim Ch’ang-soon. Additional discussions have taken place between Chinese and North Korean officials in Beijing, perhaps connected to a possible stopover by Kim Jong-un while traveling to Singapore, which would be his third visit to China in less than two months. One of Kim Jong-un’s closest aides and a vice chairman of the Korean Workers Party Central Committee, General Kim Yong-chol, is now en route to New York, and is expected to serve as the lead point-of-contact with U.S. officials in deliberations over the Singapore meeting.

These heightened activities all suggest that the summit will indeed go forward, though there has been no formal announcement to this effect.

However, two facts remain incontestable. There is as yet no U.S.-North Korea agreement on the terms of a summit, and time is running out to reach such an understanding. An unspoken but unmistakable anxiety thus pervades these intensified political and diplomatic maneuvers. Only 10 days before President Trump’s presumed departure for Singapore, it is stunning how little remains agreed to, even in broad conceptual terms. Advocates of diplomacy argue that this is the purpose of face-to-face negotiations. But the contrasts in the language and expectations of the two leaderships remain glaring, even after two visits by Mike Pompeo to Pyongyang, first as CIA director and subsequently as secretary of state.

The fundamental issue is what the summit is supposed to be about. ……….

Kim Jong-un knows what he wants from the summit. Does President Trump? Is the president prepared to accept the risks of an inconclusive outcome or an outright failure in Singapore? What would U.S. policy options be in the event of such a failure? Time will tell. But for now, time is running out.


May 30, 2018 - Posted by | North Korea, politics international, USA

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