U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un are set to hold their second summit talks in Hanoi from Feb. 27. The focal point of the two-day meeting is to what extent North Korea will disclose its nuclear weapons program and whether the country can in effect be denuclearized.
In their first summit in June last year, President Trump and Kim, chairman of the Workers' Party of Korea, reached an accord for a complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. Following the meeting, the United States has demanded North Korea submit a road map toward denuclearization and a list of all its nuclear facilities, but the North has not complied.
What is worrisome is Washington's apparent show of understanding toward Pyongyang's position to a certain extent. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo even hinted at offering a reward to the North while maintaining economic sanctions against the country.
North Korea apparently is looking to have the sanctions partially lifted in return for dismantling nuclear facilities in Yongbyon, a symbol of the country's nuclear program. In South Korea, expectations are high for the United States to possibly approve resumption of Inter-Korean economic cooperation including Mount Kumgang tourism projects.
Washington's gesture may apparently be aimed in part at displaying a flexible stance toward Pyongyang in a bid to push the stalled negotiations forward. However, the U.S. should not easily let go of its leverage for guiding Pyongyang to denuclearization.
President Trump said he would be happy as long as North Korea maintained a pause on nuclear and missile testing, attributing the current state of affairs to his own prowess. Yet a mere satisfaction with a nuclear test moratorium would not serve to make North Korea nuclear free.
Some observers speculate that the U.S. and North Korea may declare an end to the 1950-53 Korean War at the forthcoming summit.
During the previous post-summit press conference, President Trump declared that the United States would suspend joint military exercises with South Korea without coordination with the secretary of defense. He also sounded positive about pulling U.S. forces out of South Korea in the future.
The easing of tensions in Northeast Asia is certainly a good thing, but that should be premised on progress made on the nuclear issue.
North Korea is said to still be continuing its atomic weapons development. Some critics doubt the country would ever denuclearize itself as it has repeatedly scrapped accords for freezing nuclear testing and dismantling atomic weapons ever since the 1990s. Chairman Kim has the responsibility to dispel the suspicions gripping the international community.
Kim declared a new policy focusing on economic reconstruction in April last year. He is urged to become aware of the difficulty in achieving that goal as long as North Korea maintains its nuclear arsenal.