The second summit between President Donald Trump and Chairman Kim Jong-un of North Korea was held in Hanoi, Vietnam yesterday and today. It failed. The meetings on the last day were cut short. Nothing was agreed upon and signed. No common statement was issued.
Trump held a press conference and gave his side of the talks (transcript). The issue seems to have been the sequencing of abolishing sanctions by the U.S. side versus the destruction of the Yongbyon nuclear reactor complex on the North Korean side.
The U.S. demanded the destruction of Yongbyon and of other complexes before any change in the sanction regime. North Korea insisted on following the sequencing that was agreed upon during the first summit.
The joint statement by the two leaders signed in June 2018 defined four clearly sequenced steps:
President Trump and Chairman Kim Jong Un state the following:
- The United States and the DPRK commit to establish new US-DPRK relations in accordance with the desire of the peoples of the two countries for peace and prosperity.
- The United States and DPRK will join their efforts to build a lasting and stable peace regime on the Korean Peninsula.
- Reaffirming the April 27, 2018 Panmunjom Declaration, the DPRK commits to work toward complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula
- The United States and the DPRK commit to recovering POW/MIA remains, including the immediate repatriation of those already identified.
Eight month later new relations in form of the opening of embassies or a lifting of sanctions were not established. No peace treaty was signed. North Korea destroyed nuclear testing tunnels and a missile test stand. Some POW/MIA remains have been repatriated. But the U.S. side has taken no steps that could be seen as fulfilling its commitments.
Since the first summit Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and U.S. media have done their best to ignore the sequencing. North Korea on the other side has insisted on it again and again. It made absolutely clear that it would not budge on the issue. In his New Year speech the chairman emphasized:
If the US responds to our proactive, prior efforts with trustworthy measures and corresponding practical actions, bilateral relations will develop wonderfully at a fast pace through the process of taking more definite and epochal measures.
We have no intention to be obsessed with and keep up the unsavoury past relationship between the two countries, but are ready to fix it as early as possible and work to forge a new relationship in line with the aspirations of the two peoples and the requirements of the developing times.
I am ready to meet the US president again anytime, and will make efforts to obtain without fail results which can be welcomed by the international community.
But if the United States does not keep the promise it made in the eyes of the world, and out of miscalculation of our people’s patience, it attempts to unilaterally enforce something upon us and persists in imposing sanctions and pressure against our Republic, we may be compelled to find a new way for defending the sovereignty of the country and the supreme interests of the state and for achieving peace and stability of the Korean peninsula.
The “corresponding measures” the U.S. promised will have to come first before North Korea gives up more of its nuclear infrastructure.
As Trump tells it the U.S. insisted on nuclear dismantling first:
Trump: Basically they wanted the sanctions lifted in their entirety, and we couldn’t do that. They were willing to denuke a large portion of the areas that we wanted, but we couldn’t give up all of the sanctions for that, so we’ll continue to work and we’ll see.
But we had to walk away from that particular suggestion. We had to walk away from that.
Q: Will all the sanctions that are currently in existence remain, sir?
Trump: They’re in place. I was watching as a lot of you folks over the weeks have said, oh, we’ve given up — we haven’t given up anything.
And I think frankly we’ll be good friends with chairman Kim and North Korea, and I think they have tremendous potential. I’ve been telling everybody they have tremendous potential, unbelievable potential, and we’re going to see.
But it was about sanctions. They wanted sanctions lifted but they weren’t willing to do an area we wanted. They were willing to give us areas but not the ones we wanted.
That the sanctions stay in place is a great disappointment for South Korea. Its president Moon Jae-in had hoped to announce new economic agreements with North Korea. The U.S. will not allow him to proceed.
That Trump came to the summit with the delusion that he could get more out of North Korea before lifting sanctions is a failure of the policy process in the State Department and the National Security Council.
They held the preparatory talks and knew what North Korea demanded before it was willing to go any further.
Trump says that even as he “walked away” the meeting ended in a friendly way and without bad words. North Korea, Trump says, will stay committed to the freeze of nuclear and missile testing while the U.S. will stay committed to the freeze of large scale maneuvers around North Korea.
Both sides are open to further talks but no dates have been set for them.
If Trump hopes that North Korea will come back and offer more he will be disappointed. Neither will North Korea sit just back and do nothing while the U.S. keeps sticking to its sanction regime.
The New Year speech quoted above said that North Korea will “be compelled to find a new way for defending the sovereignty of the country” if the U.S. is unwilling to budge.
History shows that North Korea has always gamed out such talks. It is always prepared to let them fail and it is ready to take the next step whenever that happens.
The “new way” may well allure to some new weapon that North Korea is ready to test. Cruise missiles are a possible candidate.
We do not know yet the North Korean view of the talks. Their version is usually published in the official Rodong Sinmun newspaper a day or two after such talks. It will likely contain hints of how North Korea is going to proceed.
Kim Jong-un came to Vietnam by train. He will travel back through China and will likely coordinate the next steps with the Chinese government. When and how he will take his “new way” will probably depend on the trade talks between China and the United States. If those too fail then all bets are again off.
This article was originally published by “Moon Of Alabama“
The 21st Century