U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un will sit down for a historic meeting today in the island of “peace and tranquility” Sentosa. The two sides have contacted via diverse channels and worked until the very last minute to draft an agreement. President Trump expressed his excitement in his meeting with Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, by saying, “We've got a very interesting meeting in particular tomorrow, I think things could work out very nicely." North Korea media confirmed the Trump-Kim meeting for the first time and unveiled the meeting agenda as “establish a new relationship with the United States, establish a permanent and a peaceful regime on the Korean Peninsula, and realize the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.”
The leaders of North Korea and the United States will have a face-to-face meeting for the first time. To be sure, the meeting of the leaders of hostile countries that have been at odds with each other ideologically and militarily is meaningful itself, but the situation on the Korean Peninsula is so tough that we cannot be content with the event itself. Eliminating the last vestige of the cold war will be far from easy. The two leaders, with only translators in presence, will have one-on-one talks on realizing denuclearization and establishing a peaceful regime on the Korean Peninsula.
The most important issue is setting a timetable for denuclearization. If North Korea fulfills its disarmament commitments, it will be rewarded with declaration of the end of the Korean War, signing of a peace treaty, and establishing diplomatic ties with the United States. It is “complete and faster” denuclearization that Washington wants. This is how North Korea can be guaranteed with security in a complete and faster manner. And this is what Kim Jong Un should decide today. The principle of “complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization (CVID)” should not be wavered for the sake of fast result.
There are voices of concern within South Korea being excluded in the summit although it was South Korea that brokered the meeting. Even though there was coordination between South Korea and the United States and communication between the two Koreas ahead of the summit, but sensitive issues not included in the official agreement and unpredicted proposals can be discussed during the summits. The two leaders, given their challenging sprit, could secretly reach an agreement on the spot. There are also possibilities where the United States cuts a deal that could threaten security of South Korea in exchange for the dismantlement of ICBM, which is an immediate threat to itself. This is why South Korea should not let its guard down.
The first meeting between North Korea and the United States today will be the start of a journey toward a peaceful Korean Peninsula. President Trump called the summit “start of a process” and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un called it “the first step to problem-solving.” South Korean President Moon Jae-in said Monday the two sides need to take enough time in solving the issues and deep-rooted hostilities and the nuclear issue cannot be solved at once by having one summit. Today will be the start of a process where the two countries do away with mistrust and build up trust step by step. Whether Trump and Kim reach a solid and sustainable agreement will make or break the success of that process.