Something to shout about

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Something to shout about

The author is a Washington correspondent of the JoongAng Ilbo.



North Korea’s nuclear program has disappeared from U.S. President Donald Trump’s rallies. At the Make America Great Again rally in Evansville, Indiana on Aug. 30, Trump did not mention North Korea at all. At a fundraising event in Charlotte, North Carolina, he did not talk about North Korea either. It was a major change from the Charleston, West Virginia, rally on Aug. 21, where he spent over three minutes praising how well he had done.

Trump’s attitude changed since U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s fourth Pyongyang visit was canceled on Aug. 24. In an interview with Fox News, he described the meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un as “a great success.” A week later, in an interview with Bloomberg, he said he had “great patience” for North Korea. The change came after he received a threatening letter from North Korea.

Georgetown Professor Michael Green said that Trump has woken up from the naive idea that Kim Jong-un would trust him and pursue denuclearization. Trump has returned to reality from the illusion that Kim would go for denuclearization after he promised regime security and economic assistance in Singapore. As a result, Trump is focusing on a trade war and negotiations with China, Canada and Mexico. With about two months left until the midterm election, specific numbers like tens of billions of dollars worth of tariffs can surely help.

The authority of the stalled North Korean nuclear negotiations has moved from Pompeo to newly appointed U.S. Special Representative for North Korea Stephen Biegun, an envoy two steps higher than his predecessor Deputy Assistant Secretary Joseph Yun. Biegun served as a staffer for the National Security Council in Washington and worked as Vice President of International Governmental Affairs for Ford Motor Company for 10 years. So, he is expected to communicate well with Trump.

But U.S. diplomacy with North Korea led by the president and the secretary of state was downgraded to working level for prolonged talks, as it had been for the six-party talks.

South Korea’s special envoy, National Security Advisor Chung Eui-yong, visits Pyongyang today after six months. Special envoy diplomacy is repeated after the inter-Korean and U.S.-North Korea summits. But this time, the fate of denuclearization and peace depends on whether the special envoy gets Kim Jong-un to commit to specific actions to prove his sincerity for denuclearization. I hope Trump will be able to use the outcome of the special envoy’s trip as he campaigns in Montana on Thursday.

JoongAng Ilbo, Sept. 4, Page 30
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