Thinking beyond denuclearisation at the Trump-Kim summit

14 June, 2018, 04:01 | Author: Wade Massey
  • North Korea leader Kim Jong Un center is escorted by his security delegation as he visits Marina Bay in Singapore. | AP

Despite the White House releasing on 24 May a letter from US President Donald Trump to North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un stating that Trump was withdrawing from the summit, preparatory talks resumed and Trump and Kim arrived in Singapore on 10 June.

But US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo injected a note of caution ahead of the first-ever meeting of US and North Korean leaders on Tuesday, saying that it remained to be seen whether Kim was honest about his willingness to denuclearise.

Pompeo, addressing reporters ahead of the summit, said the US was prepared to take action to provide North Korea with "sufficient certainty" that denuclearization "is not something that ends badly for them".

Both sides are finalising preparations for Tuesday's historic forum in Singapore, which is due to kick off at 9:00am (local time). Days earlier, in the North Korean village of Panmunjom, negotiations between diplomats from Washington and Pyongyang stalled when North Korea's vice-foreign minister Choe Son-hui said that denuclearization "should not be on the table for the Singapore summit" - a demand that would nullify the meeting's goal from the White House's perspective.

Pompeo said the discussions earlier in the day moved "quite rapidly".

While the pressure is on for the talks to deliver concrete progress in this area, observers say this is a high bar unlikely to be achieved in just a few hours of talks.

The White House announced Monday that Trump will leave Singapore earlier than originally planned, saying negotiations with North Korea have moved "more quickly than expected".

"Secondly it needs to agree on some statements of principle on heading towards a nuclear-free (Korean) peninsula, and third it needs to have started the process: actual steps in that direction, agreeing on some first steps".

"It contributes much to the Korean Peninsula's denuclearization and lasting peace settlement", he told Xinhua.

Imagine if President George W. Bush had met Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein for face-to-face negotiations in January 2003 in Egypt instead of the US -led invasion going ahead two months later and you get a sense of how remarkable this summit is.

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Lee Yun-keol, who worked in a North Korean Guard Command unit before defecting to South Korea in 2005 told the Washington Post: "Rather than using a public restroom, the leader of North Korea has a personal toilet that follows him around when he travels".

Boo Seung-chan, a research fellow at the Yonsei Institute for North Korean Studies in Seoul, was equally optimistic about the outcome.

"Trump and Kim both need a "gift" to bring home", Boo said.

North Korea tends to keep its official government commentary on the pages of Rodong Sinmun, which routinely threatened nuclear annihilation of the American mainland past year.

In an encouraging sign, the DPRK made a decision to suspend its nuclear and intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) tests on April 21.

"North Korea has previously confirmed to us its willingness to denuclearise and we are eager to see if those words prove honest", he said.

The hotel's lavish 47 Singapore dollar ($35) per person buffet breakfast costs about the same as what most North Koreans earn in a month.

"Will that be enough?"

Reuters could not confirm if leader Kim was staying in the Presidential Suite.

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