Kim-Trump summit exposes frailties over North Korea As the dust settles in the wake of the much-vaunted and, ultimately, failed second summit between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Vietnam, are the two countries now back at square one?

Kim-Trump summit exposes America frailties over North Korea and international political order

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un walks with U.S. President Donald Trump during their second summit in Hanoi on Friday in a photo released by the Korean Central News Agency. | KCNA /REUTERS
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un walks with U.S. President Donald Trump during their second summit in Hanoi on Friday in a photo released by the Korean Central News Agency. | KCNA /REUTERS

One of the biggest net losers in all of this is South Korean President Moon Jae-in, who said that he was “perplexed” at how things had fallen apart so quickly – TAKASHI YOKOTA AND JONATHAN BERKSHIRE MILLER , Japan Times

CRIMSON TAZVINZWA, AIWA! NO!|As the dust settles in the wake of the much-vaunted and, ultimately, failed the second summit between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Vietnam, are the two countries now back at square one?

Before the summit, the U.S. president had hoped to make a deal with his “friend” Kim, raising speculation of a more solid denuclearization agreement — possibly even an “end-of-war declaration” of the Korean War, which has technically continued even after an armistice agreement in 1953.

Kim, having made an arduous 65-hour train journey from Pyongyang to Hanoi, had hoped to have crushing sanctions eased to help lift his economy. Prior to the meeting, North Korean state media presented their leader’s trip as a “long march” to his countrymen, but now that Kim has come out empty-handed, he’s likely to face some criticism back home.

Trump and his top diplomat, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, insist they made “progress” at their meeting with Kim and his lieutenants, but the reality is that the summit ended as a flop. While Trump was arguably right to walk away from a “bad deal,” his lack of progress — at the very least, a thin joint statement — is a crippling indictment of his policy on North Korea.

How did the high-stakes diplomacy unravel at the last minute? Regional experts and analysts have long pointed to the dangers of holding a top-level summit while progress on hashing out details between working-level diplomats remained questionable.

One possible theory for Trump’s decision to walk away may be tied to domestic matters. As Trump himself complained after the summit, his meeting with Kim coincided with damning congressional testimony by his former lawyer, Michael Cohen, who under oath, called him a “cheat” and a “con man.”

Whether Cohen’s testimony had any effect on Trump’s decision is anyone’s guess. However, the harsh testimony no doubt pushed Trump into a corner in which he could not afford to appear weak or pandering to the North Korean leader.

The hype was also amplified by the misguided analogy that the White House peddled regarding Vietnam and North Korea. Trump stressed before and after the summit that North Korea could one day become an “economic powerhouse” if it followed the Vietnamese model.

The problem with this narrative, however, is that it’s both simplistic and incomplete. Vietnam is a country that fought — and won — a vicious war against the United States and forcibly reunited the country. North Korea, on the other hand, remains a state that is not recognized by Washington (or Seoul) and is still technically at war, despite the armistice. Although both have communist backgrounds, Vietnam has partially embraced market capitalism. North Korea has not.

Trump may have been prematurely optimistic about the bilateral process, but what about Kim?

According to the U.S. leader, one of the key factors in the summit’s failure was Kim’s demands to lift all existing sanctions on the country. North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho later disputed that account, arguing that Pyongyang had only demanded a partial easing of the measures.

Kim had to know that a full-scale lifting of sanctions is off the table — at least in a more expansive sense — unless he was able to guarantee a time-bound and verifiable commitment to denuclearize. Furthermore, Ri is a seasoned diplomat who has negotiated with the United States since the 1990s and knows the issues inside and out.

The U.N. Security Council sanctions are the international community’s main source of leverage to pressure Kim to relinquish his nuclear material and missiles. To give those up at this point for apparent concessions on the Yongbyon nuclear complex would be foolish, some observers have said.

Ri told reporters that if recent U.N. sanctions — the ones with real teeth — are lifted, North Korea was ready to “permanently and completely dismantle all the nuclear material production facilities in the Yongbyon area, including plutonium and uranium.” Translation: If Trump and the international community agree to lift the most crippling sanctions, North Korea will partially destroy its nuclear production facilities, but still keep its weapons.

So it’s perplexing that Kim held such a maximalist position if he knew those demands were a nonstarter for the United States. If Kim equally had as much at stake, he couldn’t afford to set Trump up for failure.

Another theory was that maybe there was internal dissent in Pyongyang. As far-fetched it may seem, it’s plausible that Kim himself was set up for defeat, being played by his own generals and diplomats who want to prevent the 35-year-old dictator from giving up their hard-earned nuclear weapons. Just weeks before the Hanoi summit, several career diplomats and officials were purged, allegedly having been critical of Kim’s approach on the nuclear issue, a report by a Seoul-based think tank said.

Regardless of the domestic political machinations, however, the Hanoi talks may have merely been doomed from the start due to the lack of a clear definition of “denuclearization” — without which, the chances of Washington and Pyongyang coming to an agreement remain minimal at best.

This ambiguity is the result of the vaguely worded joint statement signed at last year’s summit in Singapore, which says North Korea will “work toward the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.” That statement can mean many things. While Washington has viewed it as meaning that North Korea would give up all of its nuclear weapons and production capabilities in a verifiable way, Pyongyang sees it in more expansive terms.

For North Korea, “denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula” ultimately involves removing America’s extended deterrence commitments to its allies in the region as well as its military presence in South Korea and Japan.

As long as there’s a conceptual divide on denuclearization, no matter how many times the Trump administration insisted that North Korea had agreed to “denuclearize,” the reality remains that Pyongyang has never made such a commitment — not in Singapore and certainly not in Hanoi.

With the process having so many fundamental problems, what now? One possibility is that Kim eventually reverts back to the regime’s time-tested tactic of brinkmanship.

To be sure, the chances of immediately returning to the days when Trump thundered about unleashing “fire and fury” on North Korea remains remote. Trump said that Kim promised him that he won’t conduct further nuclear or missile tests.

Still, a verbal agreement like that is tenuous, especially with North Korea. Back in February 2012, Pyongyang verbally promised to halt its nuclear and missile tests in exchange for food aid. Two months later, Kim conducted what his regime claimed was a “satellite launch” that many said was a veiled test of ballistic-missile technology.

For another, although the diplomatic process between the United States and North Korea is still alive, the chances of serious talks resuming anytime soon are bleak. With Trump clearly shifting his focus to domestic politics as election season looms, Kim may see little benefit in dealing with a politically distracted leader.

In spite of the North Korean state media’s claim that the two leaders agreed to “continue having productive talks,” the country’s vice foreign minister, Choe Son Hui, told reporters that she felt that Kim had “lost the will” to deal with Trump.

One of the biggest net losers in all of this is South Korean President Moon Jae-in, who said that he was “perplexed” at how things had fallen apart so quickly.

Moon has invested deeply in bringing the U.S. and North Korea together and has tied his legacy — and his political fortunes — to progress in the relationship with his country’s northern neighbor.

While Moon felt a need to act fast last year due to Trump’s escalating war of words with Pyongyang, he essentially painted himself into a corner, having put all his eggs in the reunification basket. In the process, Moon also isolated Tokyo and berated Japan over historical issues, alienating a democratic neighbor that should be a natural ally.

On the other hand, Tokyo, which has been sidelined from the North Korea problem for sticking to its realistic — or cautious — view on the rosy view of talks emanating from Washington, Pyongyang and Seoul, has suddenly emerged as retaining the most credibility on the matter.

Indeed, if there’s one positive to take from the summit’s failure, it’s that it has forced many to come to their senses about the reality of the North Korea problem — that there are no easy answers, and that a “bromance” between two leaders can only get one so far.

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North Korea's Kim arrives in Vietnam

North Korea’s Kim arrives in Vietnam, awaits US President Donald Trump for the second summit

Vietnamese residents take photos while North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un goes past in Hanoi, Vietnam, February 26, 2019. REUTERS/KHAM
Vietnamese residents take photos while North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un goes past in Hanoi, Vietnam, February 26, 2019. REUTERS/KHAM

Story spiked – Kim’s Hanoi hotel masterstroke undone as White House press evictedREUTERS

  • US journalists were abruptly booted from the hotel where North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is staying ahead of his summit with President Donald Trump.
  • Kim, who was booked into the Melia Hanoi Hotel, arrived in Vietnam on Tuesday local time to a throng of journalists eagerly anticipating his arrival to the city.
  • “They had about an hours notice that they all had to get out,” CNN correspondent Will Ripley reported on Tuesday. “Kim Jong Un understandably didn’t like the idea of sharing a hotel with a large group of American reporters.”

|AIWA! NO!|North Korean leader Kim Jong Un arrived in Vietnam on Tuesday for a summit with U.S. President Donald Trump where they will try to reach agreement on how to implement a North Korean pledge to give up its nuclear weapons.

Trump is due in the Vietnamese capital, Hanoi, on Tuesday evening.

They will meet for a brief one-on-one conversation on Wednesday evening, followed by a dinner, at which they will each be accompanied by two guests and interpreters, White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders told reporters on Air Force One.

The two leaders would meet again on Thursday, she said.

North Korea’s Kim awaits Trump in Vietnam for second summit

Their talks come eight months after their historic summit in Singapore, the first between a sitting U.S. president and a North Korean leader.

There is likely to be pressure on both sides to move beyond the vaguely worded commitment they made in Singapore to work toward complete denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula.

Domestic critics have warned Trump against cutting a deal that would do little to curb North Korea’s nuclear ambitions, urging specific, verifiable North Korean action to abandon the nuclear weapons that threaten the United States.

In return, Kim would expect significant U.S. concessions such as relief from punishing sanctions and a declaration that the 1950-53 Korean War is at last formally over.

Kim, who travelled from the North Korean capital by train, arrived at the station in the Vietnamese town of Dong Dang after crossing over the border from China.

Vietnamese officials were on hand to receive him at the station with a red-carpet welcome, including a guard of honour and fluttering North Korean and Vietnamese flags.

Kim’s sister, Kim Yo Jong, who has emerged as an important aide, arrived with him.

About a dozen bodyguards ran along side Kim’s car as he departed for the two-hour journey to the capital, Hanoi.

Roads were closed off with Vietnamese security forces equipped with armoured-personnel carriers guarding the route to the city’s Melia hotel where he is staying.

Both Kim Jong Un and Trump are also due to hold separate talks with Vietnamese leaders.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also arrived in Hanoi, on Tuesday. He has been Trump’s top envoy in his efforts to improve ties with the reclusive North and has made several trips to Pyongyang to negotiate an ending of its nuclear programme.

Pompeo was due to meet U.S. Special Representative for North Korea Stephen Biegun in Hanoi later.

Trump told reporters before he left the and Kim would have “a very tremendous summit”.

Tweeting on Monday, he stressed the benefits to North Korea if it gave up its nuclear weapons. “With complete Denuclearisation, North Korea will rapidly become an Economic Powerhouse. Without it, just more of the same. Chairman Kim will make a wise decision!” Trump said.

In a speech late on Sunday, Trump, however, appeared to play down any hope of a major breakthrough in Hanoi, saying he would be happy as long as North Korea maintained its pause on weapons testing.

“I’m not in a rush,” he said. “I just don’t want testing. As long as there’s no testing, we’re happy.”

North Korea conducted its last nuclear test in September 2017 and last tested an intercontinental ballistic missile in November 2017.

Analysts say the two leaders have to move beyond summit symbolism.

“The most basic yet urgent task is to come to a shared understanding of what denuclearisation would entail,” said Gi-Wook Shin, director of Stanford’s Asia-Pacific Research Center.

“The ambiguity and obscurity of the term ‘denuclearisation’ only exacerbates the scepticism about both the U.S. and North Korean commitments to denuclearisation.”

While the United States is demanding that North Korea give up all of its nuclear and missile programmes, North Korea wants to see the removal of the U.S. nuclear umbrella for South Korea.

A South Korean presidential spokesman told reporters in Seoul on Monday the two sides might be able to agree to a formal end of the Korean War, which was concluded with an armistice not a peace treaty, a move North Korea has long sought.

While a formal peace treaty may be a long way off, the two sides have discussed the possibility of a political declaration stating that the war over.

Protesters in Seoul tore up photographs of Kim and threw them to the ground to highlight their dismay that North Korea’s grim record on human rights was not expected to figure in the discussions.

About half of 451 North Korean defectors questioned in a survey endured physical violence at the hands of North Korean authorities before they fled, a rights group.

Rights group Amnesty International said Trump had disregarded human rights to gain favour with Kim.

“His silence in the face of relentless and grave human rights violations has been deafening,” it said.

Business Insider Here's how world leaders are reacting to the historic Trump-Kim summit

U.S., North Korea to seek understanding on denuclearization at summit

(Susan Walsh/AP)
President Trump and North Korea’s Kim Jong Un are due to meet in Vietnam next week for their second summit on denuclearization.
(Susan Walsh/AP)
President Trump and North Korea’s Kim Jong Un are due to meet in Vietnam next week for their second summit on denuclearization.

The hopes and fears surrounding the second Trump-Kim summitAIWA! NO!

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States and North Korea will seek a common understanding of what denuclearization means when President Donald Trump presses Kim Jong Un next week to give up all of the North’s nuclear weapons, U.S. officials said on Thursday.

Trump and Kim are set to meet in Vietnam for their second summit in an effort to thaw relations between the former foes and reduce one of the world’s biggest nuclear threats.

U.S. officials have downplayed expectations for the meeting, and Trump has made clear he does not expect it to be his last with Kim, a dictator he once derided as “little rocket man” but now considers a partner with whom he can work.

Critics have said Trump gave Kim too much simply by meeting with him in Singapore last year. That criticism may be levied again for the Vietnam summit.

But the U.S. officials said the United States remained focused on getting the North Korean leader to denuclearize, even if he had not made that decision himself so far.

“I don’t know if North Korea has made the choice yet to denuclearize, but the reason why we’re engaged in this is because we believe there is a possibility,” one official said.

The two sides have not agreed previously on what denuclearization means.

Kim agreed in Singapore to work toward the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula, which could be taken to include removal of the U.S. nuclear umbrella for South Korea and nuclear-capable forces, while the United States has been demanding that North Korea give up all of its nuclear and missile programs.

“It is ultimately about the denuclearization of North Korea. That was what was agreed between the two sides and that is the overriding goal that President Trump is seeking to achieve with this summit. This is an important step towards that ultimate goal,” the official said.

He said the United States would press for a freeze on all weapons of mass destruction and missile programs and a “roadmap” to set expectations for negotiations.

The two sides are not discussing the removal of U.S. troops from South Korea, however. The United States keeps some 28,500 troops in South Korea.

Asked whether Trump was open to withdrawing all U.S. troops from the Korean peninsula for a peace treaty that would formally end the war, a second official said that was “not the subject of discussions.”

The officials noted that punishing U.S. sanctions would remain in place to give North Korea an incentive to move.

North Korea diplomats sidelined ahead of talks

Trump’s national security adviser John Bolton is traveling to South Korea for consultations with South Korean officials ahead of the Hanoi summit, a senior White House official said.

U.S. special representative for North Korea Stephen Biegun is already there, negotiating with North Korean officials ahead of the summit.

The two sides are seeking to build the goals outlined in a joint statement from the Singapore meeting to recast relations between the United States and North Korea, establish peace on the peninsula, denuclearize, and return the remains of those missing or killed in action during the Korean War.

Additional reporting by David Brunnstrom and Susan Heavey; Editing by James Dalgleish

 

North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un ready to meet Trump ‘anytime’, but warns of ‘new path’

Kim and Trump shaking hands at the red carpet during the DPRK–USA Singapore Summit

Kim and Trump shaking hands at the red carpet during the DPRK–USA Singapore Summit

SEOUL – Hyonhee ShinSoyoung Kim|REUTERS|AIWA! NO!|In a nationally televised New Year address, Kim said denuclearisation was his “firm will” and North Korea had “declared at home and abroad that we would neither make and test nuclear weapons any longer nor use and proliferate them”.

However, he warned that North Korea might be “compelled to explore a new path” to defend its sovereignty if the United States “seeks to force something upon us unilaterally ... and remains unchanged in its sanctions and pressure”.

It was not clear what Kim meant by “a new path,” but his comments are likely to further fuel scepticism over whether North Korea intends to give up a nuclear weapons programme that it has long considered essential to its security.

There was no immediate comment from the White House and asked for a reaction, a spokesperson for the U.S. State Department said: “We decline the opportunity to comment.”

South Korea’s presidential office, however, welcomed Kim’s speech, saying it carried his “firm will” to advance relations with Seoul and Washington.
Kim, Trump Singapore Peace Summit 2018

Kim added that Pyongyang had “taken various practical measures” and if Washington responded “with trustworthy measures and corresponding practical actions … bilateral relations will develop wonderfully at a fast pace”.

“I am always ready to sit together with the U.S. president anytime in the future, and will work hard to produce results welcomed by the international community without fail,” Kim said.

However, he warned that North Korea might be “compelled to explore a new path” to defend its sovereignty if the United States “seeks to force something upon us unilaterally … and remains unchanged in its sanctions and pressure”.

It was not clear what Kim meant by “a new path,” but his comments are likely to further fuel scepticism over whether North Korea intends to give up a nuclear weapons programme that it has long considered essential to its security.

There was no immediate comment from the White House and asked for a reaction, a spokesperson for the U.S. State Department said: “We decline the opportunity to comment.”

South Korea’s presidential office, however, welcomed Kim’s speech, saying it carried his “firm will” to advance relations with Seoul and Washington.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has sent a “conciliatory message” to U.S. President Donald Trump amid stalled nuclear negotiations

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's message to US President Donald Trump was delivered last Friday (Dec 28) through an unspecified channel.PHOTO: REUTERS

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s message to US President Donald Trump was delivered last Friday (Dec 28) through an unspecified channel.PHOTO: REUTERS

CRIMSON TAZVINZWA; AIWA! NO!|North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has sent a “conciliatory message” to U.S. President Donald Trump amid stalled nuclear negotiations, South Korea’s Chosun Ilbo newspaper reported on Monday.

Kim’s “letter-like” message to Trump was delivered on Friday through an unspecified channel, the newspaper reported, citing an unnamed diplomatic source. The report did not include details about the substance of the message but said they related to U.S-North Korea talks.

On Sunday, the office of South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in said Mr Kim had sent a letter to his counterpart in Seoul saying he wants to hold more inter-Korean summits next year to achieve denuclearisation of the peninsula.

Neither the US State Department nor the US Embassy in Seoul had an immediate comment about the report of Mr Kim’s message to Mr Trump when contacted by Reuters.

Mr Moon’s office could not confirm the Chosun Ilbo report. “There is a dialogue channel between North Korea and the United States through which they exchange active communication, but I cannot know whether it took the form of letter or something else,” Mr Moon’s spokesman told a news briefing on Monday.

At a summit with Mr Trump in Singapore in June, Mr Kim vowed to work towards denuclearisation.

However, both sides have struggled to make progress on this matter. They are also yet to reschedule a meeting between US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and senior North Korean official Kim Yong Chol after an abrupt cancellation in November.

Pyongyang’s state media has credited Mr Trump for his”willingness” to continue dialogue but has also slammed the State Department for tightening sanctions.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un (left) meeting South Korean President Moon Jae-in at the Military Demarcation Line between the two countries in Panmunjom on April 27, 2018.

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The stalled negotiations had an impact on inter-Korean ties, including Mr Kim’s unrealised plan to visit Seoul this year as agreed at their summit in Pyongyang in September.

The Chosun Ilbo report also said Mr Kim wrote in the letter to Mr Moon that he would come to the South “in the near future” after giving a New Year address on Tuesday.