Time for North to prove seriousness

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Time for North to prove seriousness

The stalled negotiations between Washington and Pyongyang over the denuclearization of North Korea will likely be put back on track after U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo accepted his North Korean counterpart Ri Yong-ho’s invitation to meet in Pyongyang next month to discuss the matter. The State Department said the meeting will pave the way for a second summit between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and for a so-called “final and fully verified denuclearization.”

Pompeo’s fourth visit to Pyongyang shows persistence; he returned empty-handed after his third trip to North Korea in late July. Considering a full-court press involving three heads of state — South Korean President Moon Jae-in, Kim Jong-un and Trump — to cut the Gordian knot, they may even try to strike a “big deal” that goes beyond denuclearization.

In his address to the 73rd United Nations General Assembly, Trump declared, “We have engaged with North Korea to replace the specter of conflict with a bold new push for peace.” That’s a drastic departure from a year ago when he threatened to “totally destroy” North Korea and mocked Kim Jong-un as “Rocket Man” on a “suicide mission” on the same podium at the international body. In a meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on the sidelines of the UN sessions, Trump described his latest personal letter from Kim as “historic” and “a beautiful piece of art.” Earlier, he said he had achieved more progress than the media believed, adding that he would “do something good” for North Korea together with Kim.

On Wednesday, Trump said he does not want to “play the time game” with North Korea, adding that he doesn’t care if it takes years for the rogue country to denuclearize. Pompeo jumped on the bandwagon by saying, “We’ve talked about verification from the beginning. We’re not going to buy a pig in a poke. We’re going to get this right. We’re going to deliver on this commitment [to denuclearize] that Chairman Kim made to the world.” His remarks translate into a determination to not hurry the denuclearization process no matter what.

President Moon has returned from his trip to New York. At the United Nations and elsewhere, he pleaded — on behalf of Kim — for international trust for Pyongyang’s determination to denuclearize. It is the time for Kim to pay back his debt to Moon. We hope he delivers Pompeo a bold plan for denuclearization when the American secretary of state visits Pyongyang next month.

JoongAng Ilbo, Sept. 28, Page 38
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