For a successful summitAfter a long train trip from Pyongyang, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un finally arrived in Hanoi, Vietnam, to have his second summit with U.S. President Donald Trump on Wednesday. Trump landed in the Vietnamese capital on the same day. The summit has opened the stage for the denuclearization of North Korea — a hope of not only the Korean people but also of the international community — and ultimately for the establishment of a lasting peace on the Korean Peninsula.
Unfortunately, the first U.S.-North Korea summit in Singapore on June 12, 2018, ended up simply making a rhetorical declaration, including “a guarantee on peace on the Korean Peninsula” and “complete denuclearization,” instead of striking a deal to remove the recalcitrant state’s present and future nuclear threats. As such, the two leaders’ encounter after 260 days carries greater significance as they must hammer out a detailed action plan to achieve the ultimate goal of denuclearization this time around.
The Trump-Kim summit meetings slated for Thursday gives us bigger expectations than before because both leaders can have a deeper dialogue to tackle the denuclearization compared to their first one-day summit. They will try to build mutual trust through greeting and dinner sessions Wednesday, followed by a one-on-one meeting and expanded meetings Thursday. The expected five to six encounters raise our hopes for a better outcome than the first summit. Another optimistic sign is both leaders’ expressions of will to bring about tangible results from the summits. In particular, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un allegedly told U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo last year that he “does not want to let my children live under the weight of nuclear weapons in the future.”
That’s not all. News media reported that the two leaders will sign an alleged working-level agreement between both sides to dismantle the North’s nuclear facilities in Yongbyon, Tongchang-ri and Punggye-ri under international inspections in return for Washington’s proposals to establish a liaison office in each country and declare the end of the Korean War (1950-53).
Welcoming the allegedly dramatic development between the two former archenemies, South Korean President Moon Jae-in said he will prepare a path toward a new Korean Peninsula for the North’s economic development and prosperity.
We sincerely hope President Moon’s remarks help pave the way to change the peninsula’s bitter history plastered with confrontations and hostilities over the past seven decades.
To achieve the goal, Kim Jong-un, chairman of North Korea’s State Affairs Commission, must make a promise in a clear and detailed way during summit meetings.
Only when he concedes to the scrapping of unknown plutonium and uranium processing facilities beyond the Yongbyon area and agrees to a transparent roadmap for denuclearization — with deadlines fixed on each phase of the denuclearization process — can the summit be recorded as a success in history.
Trump must also clearly present all the possible rewards Kim can receive if he makes a bold decision — including Trump’s guarantees on regime security and economic aid to North Korea. When it comes to the issue of easing sanctions on the North, however, Trump must take a prudent position. The North Korean leader must have accepted a second summit with Trump out of a desperate need to lift international sanctions.
If Washington decides to ease sanctions simply with a nuclear freeze instead of complete denuclearization, Pyongyang will most likely approach follow-up meetings halfheartedly. That will not only help denuclearization talks to drag on but also lead to the international recognition of North Korea as a nuclear power. We can never accept the scenario; Trump must not hurriedly show such a ludicrous card to Kim in the summit no matter how desperate he is to overcome his challenges at home.
Washington and Pyongyang must also make prudent approaches to declaring an end to the war. Of course, that can help accelerate the denuclearization process. Yet if South Korea — a party directly involved in the tragic war — is excluded from the declaration, it triggers a huge problem: the declaration will not only narrow our footing on many issues related to the future of the peninsula, but also critically weaken our alliance with Uncle Sam and spike resistance from neighbors, including China, another party involved in the war. Therefore, it is better for Trump and Kim to focus on their bilateral issue this time.
The success of the Hanoi summit depends on Kim. His visit to Vietnam reflects his determination to rebuild the North Korean economy by applying the Vietnamese development model to his home based on opening and reform. To follow in the footsteps of Vietnam, he will try hard to lift sanctions no matter what. But the only key to eased sanctions is complete denuclearization: Kim must keep that in mind if he really wants to lead his country to a prosperous and peaceful future.