Penin­sula progress will take more than an­other meet­ing

China Daily - - COMMENT -

For much of last year, both United States Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump and Demo­cratic Peo­ple’s Repub­lic of Ko­rea leader Kim Jong-un were very en­thu­si­as­tic about their in­ter­ac­tion. Un­til they started bick­er­ing about whose turn it was to make the next move and the penin­sula de­nu­cle­ariza­tion process stalled, with the two sides point­ing fin­gers at each other’s games­man­ship.

But while spec­u­la­tion is rife that this means the peace process is on its last legs, both Trump and Kim ap­par­ently feel that there is still life in it.

Every­body seems to have no­ticed Kim’s threat “to ex­plore a new path” should the US pur­sue “sanc­tions and pres­sure with­out keep­ing a prom­ise it made in front of the world,” in his New Year ad­dress. And to be won­der­ing what that “new path” might be.

But Kim also de­clared de­nu­cle­ariza­tion was his “firm will”, and his coun­try “would nei­ther make and test nu­clear weapons any longer nor use and pro­lif­er­ate them”.

For any­one con­cerned about Py­ongyang be­ing the source of a nu­clear threat, that should be a con­sol­ing mes­sage. Plus, Kim again dis­played will­ing­ness to con­tinue en­gag­ing with Wash­ing­ton over the fu­ture of the Korean Penin­sula.

On the other side of the Pa­cific in Wash­ing­ton, the US pres­i­dent an­nounced re­ceiv­ing a “great” let­ter from Kim, along with the prob­a­bil­ity of them meet­ing again.

“He’d like to meet, I’d like to meet”, Trump said. “We’ll set that up, we’ll be set­ting that up in the not-too-dis­tant fu­ture”.

Although Trump stated he was in no hurry, un­less the cur­rent mo­men­tum is badly dis­rupted, an­other US-DPRK sum­mit meet­ing would likely sus­tain what Trump has said is his “very good re­la­tion­ship with North Ko­rea”, which is crit­i­cal to his claim to have made progress in re­mov­ing a nu­clear threat.

It would also serve Py­ongyang’s needs for peace, eco­nomic devel­op­ment and closer co­op­er­a­tion with Seoul. There would be no guar­an­tee of peace if the DPRK re­turns to a tense stand­off with the US, while con­struc­tive en­gage­ment on de­nu­cle­ariza­tion might be re­warded with pre­cious US as­sis­tance in its pur­suit of eco­nomic progress.

So it would be no sur­prise if an­other Trump-Kim sum­mit oc­curs sooner rather than later.

How­ever, things can­not re­ally pro­ceed far with key US de­mands re­main­ing un­met and with the sanc­tions on the DPRK still in place, and since nei­ther side seems will­ing to be the one to make the re­quired move first, it would be naive to be­lieve an­other meet­ing will make a sub­stan­tial dif­fer­ence, un­less some­body comes up with some­thing new.

Both sides should heed the other’s ra­tio­nal con­cerns if the pos­i­tive mo­men­tum is to be main­tained this year.

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