A month later on June 12, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and the U.S. President Donald Trump will meet in Singapore. The summit between the two leaders will be a historic meeting that will shape the future of the Korean Peninsula and the political landscape of Northeast Asia. Judging from the selection of the meeting venue, President Trump chose to be careful than to be exceptional. According to Cheong Wa Dae, the South Korean government recommended that the two leaders meet at Panmunjom and North Korea wanted the meeting to take place in Pyongyang. But President Trump eventually made the most realistic decision.
Washington reportedly notified Seoul of its decision on the meeting place when National Security Office Chief Chung Eui-yong met with U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton in Washington on last Friday. There are many interpretations as to why President Trump delayed the announcement to Thursday when it was already decided a week ago. It might have been intended to maximize the impact by making the announcement right after the three Americans released from North Korea safely arrive in the United States. But there are possibilities that the two countries had not quite agreed on the meeting venue until U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo flied to North Korea and had long talks with Kim Yong Chol, the vice-chair of the central committee of North Korea’s ruling Workers’ party, on Wednesday. After the meeting, Mike Pompeo told reporters that “it was a long day.”
It is also worth noting that President Trump said to reporters on Thursday while welcoming the three released Americans that “My proudest accomplishment will be when we denuclearize that whole peninsula” instead of saying “denuclearization of North Korea.” It is possible that Washington agreed to suspend the deployment of US strategic military assets on the Korean Peninsula during the joint military drills with South Korea in order to achieve its goal of denuclearizing North Korea by 2020. The South Korean government should check thoroughly if “denuclearizing the whole peninsula” means excluding the Korean Peninsula from the protection of the U.S. nuclear umbrella.
The meeting between the United States and North Korea is a historic event itself. But what matters most to South Korea is the agreement that will be made between the two countries. There are concerns that President Trump, who is betting much of his political assets on the Trump-Kim meeting, may give way on issues that might have a profound impact on the security of South Korea, but little on the United States, in order to make the summit meeting successful. Eliminating the possibility will be a challenge for our diplomatic and national security officials for the remaining month, including the meeting between South Korea and the United States on May 22. The complete denuclearization of North Korea and the long-term security of South Korea should be guaranteed without any setbacks through close cooperation between South Korea and the United States.
If South Korea and the United States perform a perfect team play, the North Korea-U.S. summit in Singapore will remove the dark clouds that have been covering the Korean Peninsula for over 20 years, and the United States and North Korea will be able to end 68 years of hostilities and write a new history. I hope the last remaining relics of the Cold War will melt away in Singapore.