By Geng Xuepeng and Lu Jiafei
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un arrives in Dong Dang, Vietnamese border town Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2019, ahead of his second summit with U.S. President Donald Trump. (Minoru Iwasaki / Associated Press)
U.S. President Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un, top leader of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), will hold their second summit in Hanoi, capital of Vietnam, to discuss how to further promote denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula and improve relations between the two countries.
Their first meeting in Singapore in June 2018 ended up with positive outcomes. The two sides signed a joint statement and reached consensus on issues concerning U.S.-DPRK relations, peace mechanism for the Korean Peninsula and denuclearization on the Peninsula.
Some experts hold that despite the “breakthroughs” made, the Trump-Kim summit in Singapore didn’t formulate any specific measures. The biggest task for their second summit will be formulating specific measures to denuclearize and establish a peace mechanism for the Korean Peninsula and improve U.S.-DPRK relations.
Three major topics on the agenda
Topic 1: Nuclear facilities in the Yongbyon Nuclear Research Center and inspection. DPRK once said that it would be willing to take further steps such as permanently abandoning its Yongbyon nuclear facilities if the U.S. takes corresponding measures. Professor Kim Joon Hyung from Handong Global University believes that issues concerning Yongbyon nuclear facilities will be a key topic during the Trump-Kim summit in Hanoi. The inspection of DPRK’s Punggye-ri nuclear test site and the Sohae (Tongchang-ri) Satellite Launch Facility and engine test facilities will also be the “cards” to be played during the meeting.
Topic 2: Cooperation projects between DPRK and the Republic of Korea (ROK) and cancellation of sanctions. DPRK seeks to urge the U.S. to loosen sanctions. Whether sanctions on those cooperation programs with ROK such as the Mount Kumgang Tourist Region and the Kaesong Industrial Region (KIR) will be removed has drawn wide attention. President Trump said on February 20 that DPRK must do something “meaningful” before the U.S. lifts the sanctions.
Topic 3: Setting up liaison offices in each other’s country and declaring the Korean War over. Kyle Ferrier, an analyst from the U.S. think tank Korea Economic Institute (KEI), commented that the “cards” the U.S. may play include declaring an end to the Korean War and setting up liaison offices in each other’s country as a way to ensure the security of DPRK. Some experts argued that it remains uncertain whether such “cards” will satisfy DPRK.
Three major obstacles lie ahead
Analysts believe that the denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula and the improvement of U.S.-DPRK relations are complicated issues with many uncertainties, and they need long-time efforts to be solved. There are plentiful obstacles for the Hanoi summit to achieve substantive outcomes and implement those outcomes.
First, lack of mutual trust. Yang Xiyu, a senior fellow at China Institute of International Studies, said that the primary challenge for U.S.-DPRK relations is the lack of strategic trust, and mutual suspicion remains a key reason for the stagnation of dialogue between the two countries. If such situation continues, U.S.-DPRK negotiations will still face a multitude of difficulties.
Second, traditional prejudices. Professor Kim Joon Hyung remarked that many Americans still treat DPRK with a condescending stance, and even consider the summit a “reward” for DPRK. This increases the difficulty for the two countries to reach specific consensus through equal dialogue.
Third, domestic pressures. Experts hold that both leaders face domestic pressures. President Trump once was critisized at home for the policy he took to alleviate the tensions between the U.S. and DPRK, and Kim Jong Un also needs to prove with substantive outcomes that denuclearization is a right choice. It requires both sides to show patience and perseverance to continue improving their relations.