Bracing for a turning point

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Bracing for a turning point

U.S. President Donald Trump on Monday said that it was “most likely” that a second meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un could take place. This raises expectations for a breakthrough in the denuclearization talks, which have not made any headway since the leaders first met on June 12 in Singapore. In an interview with Reuters, Trump said he believed North Korea was taking specific steps towards denuclearization. He said there were “a lot of good things happening” in the Pyongyang regime to suggest that stalled process on the denuclearization front may finally pick up.

Trump declined to give away details, but the negotiations must make progress for a summit meeting possible. Denuclearization would gain traction if Washington and Pyongyang are arranging a summit. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is said to be getting ready to fly to Pyongyang for a fourth visit.

Nevertheless, there is a major risk. Trump may settle for a makeshift compromise to show off a feat on North Korea ahead of the midterm elections in November. He could agree to an incomplete denuclearization package if Pyongyang vows to stop and dismantle its intercontinental ballistic missile program. That could be the worst scenario for South Korea.

Chinese President Xi Jinping is believed to have accepted Pyongyang’s invitation to attend the Sept. 9 ceremony marking the 70th anniversary of the founding of the North Korean regime. South Korean President Moon Jae-in is due to have a summit in Pyongyang at a later date. Kim Jong-un may also attend the UN General Assembly in New York in late September. The North Korean nuclear problem could either return to square one or unravel easily, as if the Gordian knot has been cut. The government must thoroughly prepare for the new game-changing moment.

JoongAg Ilbo, Aug. 22, Page 30

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