North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in met on Saturday for the second time on the North Korean side of Panmunjom. The two leaders showed the world a scene of a warm embrace, which seems to have demonstrated their determination to jointly promote the Korean Peninsula peace process.
On Sunday, Moon personally briefed the outside world on the outcome of the summit, noting that “Chairman Kim and I have agreed that the June 12 summit should be held successfully.” He said Kim reiterated his firm will on denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, adding Pyongyang wants to figure out whether Washington can be trusted to end the hostile relationship with North Korea after denuclearization and ensure the future security of North Korea.
Almost at the same time as Moon’s press conference, US President Donald Trump confirmed the plan of the June 12 summit in Singapore “hasn’t changed.”
After a series of bouts that has not followed the common template, preparations for the US-North Korea summit have restarted in full swing. The good news is both Pyongyang and Washington understand each other more and they know better what will be discussed during the meeting as well as the difficulties.
The bad news is the previous round of the game between the US and North Korea may encourage the White House’s obsession with its hard-line approach. In the future, Washington may threaten to withdraw from negotiations easily so as to pressurize Pyongyang and Seoul.
It seems that maximum pressure is becoming the trump card of Trump’s team. It may help the White House make some breakthroughs in difficult negotiations, but won’t help it gain any substantial result it wants. Negotiations are aimed at looking for consensus, not one side conquering another.
In the past few days, Pyongyang showed restraint, rationality and sincerity to achieve permanent peace on the peninsula through denuclearization. Washington needs to stay sober at this time and not turn the hard-won meeting into a choice of either complete success or complete failure, turning the peace process on the peninsula into a roll of the dice.
Judging from the current situation, it is highly likely that if the Trump-Kim summit goes ahead, it will bear fruit. It seems that Pyongyang, which has repeatedly expressed its willingness to denuclearize, will not recede from this goal.
While the US owns a clear advantage in strength, it should respect North Korea’s legitimate security concern rather than arrogantly trying to bring Pyongyang to its knees. This is a crucial precondition for successful negotiations between the two. Maximum pressure is not as effective as the White House thinks, because under such pressure, Pyongyang completed key breakthroughs in nuclear and missile technologies.
It is highly anticipated that the Trump-Kim summit will be held and a handshake or embrace between the two leaders with strong personalities could create miracles. As Trump often says, we’ll see what happens.