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US, N. Korea must proceed toward eventual removal of Cold War structure

The "achievement" left a dejavu feeling. The joint statement signed by U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on June 12 at their summit in Singapore, was essentially a repeat of the Panmunjom Declaration signed at the inter-Korea summit meeting in April.

More was expected from the first-ever summit between the U.S. and North Korean leaders; it was hoped to be a turning point toward the dismantling of the last remaining Cold War structure in the world on the Korean Peninsula.

The continued existence of the Cold War structure in Northeast Asia was due in part to the lack of a normalization of ties between Japan and North Korea and between the U.S. and North Korea. The end of the Cold War brought international isolation to Pyongyang, prompting the country to accelerate its nuclear development.

Therefore, the handshaking on June 12 between the leaders of the United States and North Korea, two countries that took part in the 1950-1953 Korean War and still remain at war technically, had a symbolic meaning.

Last year, the bilateral relationship between Washington and Pyongyang became so tense that people were afraid of another war. So efforts by the U.S. and North Korea to try to settle problems through dialogue are welcome.

If President Trump and Chairman Kim of North Korea's Workers' Party deepened mutual understanding through the face-to-face summit, that is a positive development. The shouting match the two sides previously engaged in -- using expressions like "little rocket man" and "dotard" -- as well as military provocations, are far from normal.

The joint statement agreed on by the two leaders does have some points worthy of support. Under the North Korean system, words from the supreme leader have absolute authority. The statement, despite its vagueness, clearly says the two sides will seek "denuclearization," and the fact that it was signed by Chairman Kim himself carries substantial weight.

At the same time, we are worried about the lack of thoroughness on the part of the Trump administration. In the post-summit press conference, President Trump stressed his trust of Chairman Kim, but offered no concrete reason for that. Moreover, the statement made no mention of verification, the most important element in denuclearization. We are also left in the dark over how the issue concerning Japanese victims of North Korean abduction will be settled.

President Trump's stance here is clearly different from that of former U.S. President Ronald Regan, who maintained a "trust but verify" attitude in nuclear disarmament negotiations with the former Soviet Union in the last years of the Cold War.

Chairman Kim, on the other hand, must gain the easing and lifting of United Nations sanctions. The security guarantee Pyongyang has been seeking is only on paper. It is hard to think that North Korea, which harbors a deep distrust of the United States, will be satisfied with the current arrangement.

Fully fledged diplomatic maneuvering by Washington and Pyongyang is in motion. Both sides now face issues that big "political shows" cannot resolve.

(By Katsumi Sawada, managing editor of the Foreign News Department)

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