Our View

Nuclear Diplomacy – US and North Korea Relations

Last week, the US president Donald Trump has made a historical step into the demilitarised zone where dividing two Koreans; moreover, Mr. Trump even engaged in talks with the North Korean President, Kim Jong-un. The content of this meeting marked a milestone of US – North Korea Relations as both countries consented to the importance of continuing the nuclear issue, which has stalled since the summit in February. Though doubts on whether North Korea will proceed denuclearisation, positive comments were given to the resumed talks between the US and North Korea.

(photo credit to: time.com)

The meeting at the demilitarised zone

It seems that the meeting was improvised when Mr. Trump was vising in South Korea. As traces can be seen on Twitter, Mr. Trump invited to meet Mr. Kim and Mr. Kim accepted the invitation. Mr. Trump said that this meeting is a “big moment and tremendous progress.” Mr. Kim even crossed into South Korea saying that “Mr. Trump is the first US president stepping into North Korea, which is believed to be his willingness to eliminate all the unfortunate past and open a new future.” Both presidents afterwards talked for an hour in Freedom House, which is located on the side of South Korea, where South Korean President Moon Jae-in even joined briefly that marked another historical three-sides meeting.

Ever since the Korean War ended in 1953, none of the US presidents have ever stepped into the North Korea to meet with the country leader. Although the former US presidents, Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton have visited Pyongyang, North Korea, they then had left the presidency.


The US diplomatic action toward North Korea

Mr. Trump became the first US president meeting with North Korean president and was praised for his diplomatic move. He stated that, “President Obama wanted to meet, and Chairman Kim would not meet him. The Obama administration was begging for a meeting. They were begging for meetings constantly, and Chairman Kim would not meet with him.”

However, Ben Rhodes, the US Deputy National security advisor for strategic communications serving Obama administration, commented that, “Mr. Obama has never sought a meeting with Kim Jong Un.”  He later tweeted that Mr. Trump’s visit and meeting with Mr. Kim is a failure of foreign policy, “Photos ops don’t get rid of nuclear weapons, carefully negotiated agreements do.”

The US National security council in Korean affairs, Sue Mi Terry, commented that, “This meeting could result in progress if Mr. Trump is willing to accept a partial accord rather than a comprehensive deal as doubts on Mr. Kim would offer enough on the negotiating table.” It is believed that Mr. Kim was only seeking for an interim deal with the US and a certain extent of relief on sanctions.

More positive comments were given by Pope Francis as he said that this was a good example of the culture of encounter. Whereas negative comments were focusing on the effectiveness of such diplomatic move, Robert Kelly, professor of political science at Pusan University in South Korea, said that, “This whole meme is just another Trump snow-job of flim-flam. Does anyone seriously believe Kim will give up even one warhead because Trump is his bud?”

No matter how much impact this meeting had on the denuclearisation issue of North Korea, in terms of diplomacy, Mr. Trump has indeed marked a historical step of US – North Korea relations.


Nuclear diplomacy

The nuclear issue has always been the key in US – North Korea relations. Since Mr. Trump took presidency, both countries have several negotiations however ended up with no deal. It once reached a peak in 2018 Singapore meeting when both countries committed to the complete denuclearisation in Korean peninsula but broke down in February Hanoi because no concrete agreement on the exchange of nuclear programme for lifting sanctions. Therefore, such meeting at least showed that both countries are willing to proceed with negotiations on such topic.

Nuclear diplomacy is always a gamble game. While North Korea holds the nuclear programme, the US balances it with sanctions. It is hard to predict on the result of this gamble but the crucial point is to facilitate effective and continuing communication and negotiations. Otherwise, scaling up nuclear programme will give rise to a full-scale military conflict which might be a massive military force destroying the country’s nuclear infrastructure and a large humanitarian cost.


Our View

ICRD holds for peace and safety in the international community. Nuclear weapon has always been a strategic issue in international security. ICRD believes that creating a dialogue is important in diplomacy. Effective communication and smart foreign policy should be focused on in this case to function the two countries’ relations. With resumed talks between the US and North Korea, the denuclearisation topic can be discussed and the international security can be held.



Author: Yung Lin, Researcher at ICRD

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