A monumental momentOn Sunday, U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un arrived in Singapore for an historic summit at the Capella Hotel. The two leaders’ arrival two days before their meeting on Tuesday shows how much significance they attach to the summit. However, their appearance two days before the scheduled date could also represent an uphill battle for both sides to set the agenda for a successful summit.
Ahead of the summit, Trump offered North Korea some carrots — a declaration to end the Korean War and normalization of ties between the two states — along with some sticks, including a threat to walk out of the room if the meeting does not go smoothly. Even before he departed a Group of Seven meeting in Montreal, Trump urged Kim to take a path toward denuclearization, with stern warnings that the summit is a “one-time shot” for Kim. Given the strong pressure until the last minute, the denuclearization issue will most likely be resolved through a direct deal between the two leaders.
Washington and Pyongyang are still engaged in a tense tug of war over agreeing to a complete, verifiable, and irreversible dismantlement (CVID) of North Korea’s nuclear weapons in a joint statement. This is an extremely tough issue, and Sung Kim, the U.S. Ambassador to the Philippines, and his North Korean counterpart Choe Son-hui had to fly from Panmunjom to Singapore to continue their negotiations.
We urge the two leaders to make an historic decision. Kim must transparently announce his intent to denuclearize according to the principle of CVID in return for Trump’s assurance of his regime security. Considering that the North rejects CVID because it constitutes “an insult to the integrity of the regime,” both sides can afford to budge on the wording of CVID so as not to offend North Korea. Uncle Sam must not be stingy in providing North Korea with humanitarian aid, such as medicine and fertilizer, that has been demanded to help convince its people of the need for denuclearization.
Despite pessimism over the prospects for the summit, both leaders must not make light of the lead-up to the meeting. Washington partially accepted Pyongyang’s call for a “phased and simultaneous resolution” of the issue instead of cutting the Gordian knot in a single stroke, while Pyongyang partially accommodated Washington’s call to ship its nuclear weapons to the United States. If both leaders are genuinely committed to denuclearization and peace on the Korean Peninsula, the summit will be remembered as a monumental moment in history.
JoongAng Ilbo, June 11, Page 30