North Korea’s Kim Jong Un has laid the foundations for a meeting with President Trump as soon as next month, signaling a willingness to discuss denuclearization and trying to dispel the idea that he’s an unreliable “Little Rocket Man.”
In an astonishing turn of events, a beaming Kim on Friday stepped across the border into South Korea for a day of talks that began and ended with him holding hands with the president of the South, Moon Jae-in.
They talked, they joked, they walked, they ate, and when they signed a joint statement pledging to work toward their “common goal” of denuclearizing their peninsula, they hugged.
“Today we saw Kim Jong Un’s charm offensive in action,” said Duyeon Kim, a visiting fellow at the Korean Peninsula Future Forum in Seoul. “He’s exerting his influence and trying to grab the spotlight with a big smile. But behind that smile, he was wearing his game face.”
Indeed, with Friday’s historic summit and the bold, if vague, pledge to discuss giving up his nuclear program, Kim is trying to rewrite the public narrative about him and ease some of the outside pressure on him.
“Good things are happening, but only time will tell!” Trump, who has championed a “maximum pressure” campaign against Kim, tweeted early Friday morning in Washington.
The warmth of the meeting and the positive images beamed onto TV screens across the globe have set the stage for Kim to meet with Trump at the end of May or early June. Trump has said he will go to the talks only if they promise to be “fruitful,” a bar that probably was met with Friday’s meetings. [Continue reading…]
The stunning Panmunjom Declaration announcement by the leaders of South Korea and North Korea is sweeping and potentially strongly in the American interest. The three-page declaration is quite vague and open to multiple interpretations, but the United States should use the most favorable interpretation going into the summit between President Trump and Kim Jong Un next month.
The Panmunjom Declaration has four core elements. The first is the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. The second an inter-Korean peace regime within one year. The third installs liaison offices on both sides of the demilitarized zone. The fourth is inter-Korean family reunifications. There is reporting that South Korea will provide economic assistance to the North and seems likely, but remains unconfirmed as of now.
The total denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula is an enormous net gain for the United States, with caveats. First, is recognizing that this idea means no more U.S. Navy ship visits to South Korea because we do not confirm whether our warships are carrying nuclear weapons. Second, it probably means no more major South Korean – U.S. military exercises because North Korea will likely say such exercises are hostile acts and training for the potential use of nuclear weapons on the Peninsula.
Third, it likely means ending or greatly reducing the U.S. security guarantee to South Korea because the current guarantee implicitly covers protection to the South against the use of nuclear weapons. It may mean a major push, backed by China, that the United States has to dismantle its regional missile defense network, arguing that it is not needed if the Peninsula is a nuclear free zone. [Continue reading…]
Don’t miss the latest posts at Attention to the Unseen: Sign up for email updates.