There cannot be any tricksGlobal powers are moving at a dizzying pace in the eleventh hour. North Korean leader Kim Jong-un flew to China just 43 days after his last visit and spent Monday and Tuesday in talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Dalian. He hurriedly returned home to greet U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo who made his second visit to Pyongyang in just 40 days. Pyongyang, Washington and Beijing are waging a war of nerves ahead of the meeting between Kim and U.S. President Donald Trump. All of the fuss will be meaningless if the upcoming summitry between Pyongyang and Washington does not lead to a complete, verifiable and irreversible dismantlement of North Korea’s nuclear weapons program.
Trump had made his conditions clear by declaring a re-imposition of “the highest level of economic sanctions” on Iran that would mean the United States abandoning the 2015 landmark pact amongst global powers to lift sanctions in line with Tehran’s phasing out of their nuclear weapons program. White House National Security Adviser John Bolton made a direct connection with North Korea by saying the exit from the Iranian deal sends a “clear signal” to Pyongyang that “the United States will not accept inadequate deals.”
To ensure he does not make a similar mistake with North Korea, Trump sent Pompeo to Pyongyang to reconfirm whether it would agree to his terms before he sits across with Kim. Pompeo said, “We are not going to do this in small increments, where the world is essentially coerced into relieving economic pressure.”
So far, whether North Korea will agree to Trump’s terms is uncertain. In his latest meeting with Xi, Kim stressed the brotherly relationship between Pyongyang and Beijing and told Washington that it cannot go ahead with dismantlement when threats to its regime are lingering.
He reiterated the “phased and synchronized” approach in dismantlement. Xi backed Kim and advised Trump to solve the issues through “political solutions.” Xi, for Beijing’s gains, may also be trying to shake up the alliance between Seoul and Washington.
At the end of the day, it is up to Kim. He is not foolish to think he can get away with figurative promises with Trump. In the final game, the players must throw the cards on the table. There cannot be any tricks. He can persuade Trump of dismantlement in return for security for at least two years. Upon confirming his genuine dedication, Trump could offer grand overtures. Kim also could make bold decisions if large-scale economic aid and normalization of diplomatic ties are promised as soon as North Korea completely dismantles its nuclear weapons.
JoongAng Ilbo, May 10, Page 30