Two days ahead of the historic North Korea-U.S. summit, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and U.S. President Donald Trump arrived in Singapore on Sunday one by one. Kim started his official business trip to the city state by meeting with Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong. “Kim Jong Un wants to do something great for his people, and he has that opportunity. And he won’t have that opportunity again. It’s never going to be there again,” Trump said before leaving for the Lion City, stressing that the meeting will be an “one-time shot.”
Kim’s visit to Singapore is his first outing to the outside world, beyond Socialist China and the border village of Panmunjom. It marks the beginning of the country’s new diplomacy, which had been attempted by neither his grandfather Kim Il Sung, who implemented the policy of non-aligned diplomacy within the socialism blocs during the Cold War, nor his father Kim Jong Il, who only relied on China and Russia. Though being an authoritarian state, Singapore opened itself and has achieved remarkable economic growth, so it can serve as a model for North Korea in terms of opening up and reform.
Kim Jong Un also showed his pragmatic aspect by using a Chinese private jet that carries high-level officials, instead of his old one. Although the North changed the flight number and destination during the flight and dispatched three different flights in one day apparently for security reasons, the regime’s bold actions are considered an effort to transform itself into a normal country. The young leader’s overseas trip is hoped to serve as a turning point for the world’s most reclusive, rogue regime to develop into a reliable member of the international community.
For this to happen, the two sides should be able to reach an agreement on complete denuclearization at the upcoming summit. “At a minimum, I do believe, at least we’ll have met each other. We will have seen each other,” Trump said when asked whether there is a particular outcome he would look for. Though he lowered the bar for the initial talk, there seems to be a possibility that a historic deal can be made as in-depth discussions have been held at preparatory talks between the two sides’ senior-level and working-level officials.
Therefore, the success of the summit lies in how specific and clear an agreement would be on the purpose of achieving complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization (CVID). The North’s will to completely dismantle all nuclear programs including nuclear weapons, materials facilities, and capabilities must be explicitly included in the agreement. Also, Pyongyang should rejoin the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) so that overall inspections are allowed at any time even without any notice. In addition, workers in the field of nuclear development should be able to land jobs in a private sector.
Furthermore, such measures of denuclearization must be carried out at a fast pace, though not at once. In particular, North Korea’s bold initial actions for denuclearization such as the transfer of nuclear weapons abroad are needed for the regime to prove its sincerity and get its security guaranteed by moving on to the declaration of the end of the war, establishment of bilateral relations, and signing of a peace treaty. Following up on his first step, Kim Jong Un should quickly implement denuclearization measures and run towards the path of prosperity.