Concrete actions neededA second summit between the United States and North Korea seems to be in the cards after U.S. President Donald Trump replied to a letter from North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Kim requested a second meeting in the letter. She added that Washington is already coordinating the issue with Pyongyang. Hardline National Security Adviser John Bolton also hinted at the possibility of a second summit within this year.
The new developments raise hopes for breaking the current deadlock on the denuclearization front since the cancellation of U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s trip to Pyongyang. The change of mood reflects Kim’s intention not to lose the momentum for dialogue with the United States as well as Trump’s desire to achieve some tangible results before the midterm elections in November. Our government’s efforts to mediate between Washington and Pyongyang to help them have a second summit should be appreciated.
But it boils down to whether a second Trump-Kim summit can really bring about substantial progress in denuclearization. Both sides are at conflict over the priority of denuclearization steps and a declaration to officially end the Korean War. Security experts link such discussions on a second summit to potential progress in denuclearization talks. Some raise the possibility of North Korea promising to submit a list of nuclear weapons in return for an end of war declaration. But if Kim simply promises to denuclearize, that doesn’t take us far. North Korea has promised denuclearization before.
Our government must play an effective role as a mediator when President Moon Jae-in meets Kim next week. He must convince Kim of the need for genuine denuclearization. Moon must tell Kim that if North Korea doesn’t invite outside nuclear scientists to confirm the process, it cannot win the trust of the world.
The Moon administration is rushing to improve inter-Korean relations. It already sent a bill to the National Assembly to get to approve the April 27 Panmunjom Declaration between Moon and Kim. The government is also pushing for opening of a South-North liaison office in Kaesong on Friday.
But such actions amid a lack of national consensus and without real North Korean steps to denuclearize reflect the administration’s haste. The government must persuade Kim to demonstrate his sincerity through actions. Improving inter-Korean relations is meaningless without the denuclearization of North Korea.