Experts see risks in Trump’s plan to meet with North Korea President
- In a statement released shortly after Trump's meeting with South Korean President Moon Jae-in during the G-20 summit, the White House said the two leaders "agreed on the importance of maintaining vigorous enforcement of existing sanctions" against North Korea.
- North Korea called off planned talks with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at the last minute in early November.
- Former U.S. officials who have dealt with North Korea extensively and analysts on North Korea have questioned the timing of a second summit.
North Korea experts have cautioned against another summit between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, citing a lack of progress on denuclearization since the first summit in Singapore.
After meeting with the leaders of South Korea and China during the G-20 summit, Trump expressed a willingness to hold a second summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
On his way home from the weekend gathering in Buenos Aires, Trump said a second summit with Kim will likely take place in January or February and three sites were discussed as potential meeting locations.
“We’re getting along very well,” Trump said. “We have a good relationship with Kim.”
The White House released a statement during the G-20 summit saying “great progress has been made” on Trump’s discussions on North Korea.
“It was … agreed that great progress has been made with respect to North Korea that President Trump, together with Chinese President Xi Jinping, will strive, along with Chairman Kim Jong Un, to see a nuclear free Korean Peninsula,” said the White House.
However, former U.S. officials who have dealt with North Korea extensively and analysts on North Korea have questioned the timing of a second summit.
They argue that working-level talks between Washington and Pyongyang should come before Trump meets with Kim, emphasizing working-level negotiations are where progress on denuclearization can be made.
Robert Gallucci, chief U.S. negotiator during the 1994 North Korean nuclear crisis, said, “What I care about is that there would be real progress.”
He continued, “And that is going to take place in the working-group level discussions about what the North Koreans expect, and what we are prepared to give in order to make progress towards our goal.”
Christopher Hill, a chief negotiator with North Korea during the George W. Bush administration, doubts Trump’s second summit with Kim will yield much in terms of results, similar to the lack of progress made on denuclearization after Trump’s first summit with Kim.
“I don’t see what they are going to even discuss,” Hill said. “But I think what [Trump’s] just trying to tell the press and others is that we are continuing to make progress, although I think the rest of us do not really see what the progress is. So I wouldn’t take too seriously what he says.”
Hill believes pre-summit agreements on denuclearization made in working-level talks will determine the success of the next Trump-Kim meeting.
“The success of a summit is proportional to the amount of work that it’s done before the summit,” Hill said. “I think there’s a lot of skepticism about the process right now.”
Trump’s openness to another meeting with Kim comes amid growing skepticism about North Korea’s commitment to denuclearization.
North Korea called off planned talks with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at the last minute in early November. The cancellation came after Pyongyang refused to engage with Stephen Biegun, the U.S. point man on North Korea. Some experts believe Pyongyang is only interested in direct talks with Trump.
Bruce Klingner, former CIA division chief for the Korea and current senior research fellow at the Heritage Foundation, said Pyongyang sees Trump as “more likely to offer additional concessions, as he did in Singapore.”
“It would be a mistake to convene a second summit without real progress toward a comprehensive agreement on North Korean denuclearization,” Klingner said.
Robert Manning, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council, also cautioned against holding another summit.
“The first summit outcome was so ambiguous that it has not provided any impetus for detailed negotiations or a framework for talks to resolve the whole set of issues,” Manning said.
During a press briefing last week, Robert Palladino, deputy spokesperson for the State Department said, “Future dialogue will take place and it’ll definitely be something that Special Representative Biegun will be leading.”
While the U.S. remains open to talks with North Korea, it is maintaining that sanctions will stay in place until the North takes steps toward denuclearization.
In a statement released shortly after Trump’s meeting with South Korean President Moon Jae-in during the G-20 summit, the White House said the two leaders “agreed on the importance of maintaining vigorous enforcement of existing sanctions” against North Korea.
Moon said Tuesday he hopes Kim’s visit to South Korea occurs this year, although a specific date is yet to be determined.
“Although there is no time frame set for that, still, it’s very meaningful,” said Moon from New Zealand about Kim’s visit.
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