What began as a very circumspect, tongue in cheek diplomacy is now beginning to flourish into a sustained engagement between the US & North Korean leadership.


Yes, they are meeting again. This time in Hanoi; the confirmation of another summit between President Trump & Chairman Kim has come from none other than the US president himself. Citing the ongoing ‘Productive dialogue’ between his diplomats & North Korean officials, President Trump has announced that he would indeed be meeting with the North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Vietnam’s capital, Hanoi anytime between 27th-28th of February. These are interesting times for the Korean peninsula in particular & East Asia in general. It remains to be seen if this is another of the big bully’s attempts at leveraging its trade war dividend with China in lieu of an unbridled foray by the latter into South China Sea & Taiwan. In a symbolic sense, US officials had earlier explored Da Nang, a coastal city where American troops arrived in 1965 for a war that would scar a generation, but the North Koreans were reported to prefer Hanoi since the country has an embassy there.

As a prelude to such a summit meeting, Stephen Biegun, the US special representative for North Korea, held three days of talks in Pyongyang to prepare for the summit, the state department said on Friday. It said Biegun had agreed with his counterpart Kim Hyok Chol to meet again ahead of the summit. In their talks in Pyongyang, from Wednesday to Friday, Biegun and Kim Hyok Chol “discussed advancing president Trump and chairman Kim’s Singapore summit commitments of complete denuclearization, transforming US-DPRK relations, and building a lasting peace on the Korean Peninsula,” the state department said. Its statement, which referred to North Korea by the acronym for its official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, gave no indication of any progress in the talks.

This summit comes close on the heels of an unprecedented first meeting between the leaders in Singapore last June, the two sides have appeared far from narrowing differences over US demands for North Korea to give up a nuclear weapons program that threatens the United States. Biegun said last week his Pyongyang talks would be aimed at seeking progress on commitments made in Singapore and mapping out “a set of concrete deliverables” for the second summit. He said Washington was willing to discuss “many actions” to improve ties and entice Pyongyang to give up its nuclear weapons and that Trump was ready to end the 1950-53 Korean War, which concluded with an armistice, not a peace treaty.

Biegun said Kim Jong Un committed during an October visit by US secretary of state Mike Pompeo to the dismantling and destruction of plutonium and uranium enrichment facilities and that “corresponding measures” demanded by North Korea would be the subject of his talks. At the same time, he set out an extensive list of demands that North Korea would have to meet eventually, including full disclosure of its nuclear and missile programs, something Pyongyang has rejected for decades. But while North Korea has refrained from further nuclear and missile tests, it is yet to make any concrete commitment to eliminating its arsenal.

Friday’s announcement comes just days after a confidential UN report found that the North Korean nuclear and missile programme remains intact, CNN reported. Last week, intelligence officials warned that North Korea was “unlikely to completely give up its nuclear weapons and production capability”.

On Saturday, Biegun said his talks in North Korea had been productive and Trump looked forward very much to his meeting with Kim in Hanoi. We have some hard work to do with the DPRK between now and then,” Biegun said in South Korea before a meeting with its foreign minister, Kang Kyung-wha. “I am confident that if both sides stay committed, we can make real progress.”
Trump, eager for a foreign policy win to distract from domestic troubles, has been keen for a second summit despite a lack of significant moves by North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons program. He and Biegun have stressed the economic benefits to North Korea if it does so. “North Korea, under the leadership of Kim Jong Un, will become a great Economic Powerhouse,” Trump said on Twitter. “He may surprise some but he won’t surprise me, because I have gotten to know him & fully understand how capable he is.” “I look forward to seeing Chairman Kim & advancing the cause of peace!” he said.

It is incumbent on both President Trump & North Korean leader Kim to carry forward this dialogue at all the levels, irrespective of the outcome of each individual meeting till a lasting solution is found to the vexed issue. The summit should act as a spring board for the world diplomacy to step up its efforts in persuading the two to settle their disputes amicably & in the interest of a larger public good. Hence the dialogues must be composite in nature, consistent in approach & careful in execution & commitment. These should be designed as a launch pad for sustained, structured negotiations leading to the complete, verifiable and irreversible dismantling of the North Korean nuclear-weapons programme, while taking concrete steps that reduce tensions and encourage North Korea’s continuing compliance. Such a sustained and smart diplomatic effort is the only viable means to resolving the challenges posed by North Korea. We should all stand ready to promote and support that effort.

It is no secret that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un takes his dictation in these matters from its long standing ally China. This is evidenced by the former’s 4th visit to China in recent times. Kim has sounded positive in his utterances about the second summit with U.S. President & hoped to achieve a result that the international community would welcome, China’s Xinhua news agency reported on Thursday. Kim also told Chinese President Xi Jinping he hoped relevant sides would take North Korea’s “reasonable concerns” seriously and respond to them to promote a comprehensive resolution on the Korean peninsula, China’s official news agency said.