U.S. President Donald Trump announced on Tuesday that he received a letter from North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. “It was a very personal, very warm and nice letter. I think that something will happen that’s going to be very positive,” said Trump. He said that the possibility for a third U.S.-North Korea summit was open but said that the timing would be “sometime later on.” U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton also said that the chance of a third summit was definitely possible and the key is in Kim’s hands.
Kim’s letter raises expectations to warm up relations between Washington and Pyongyang, which has grown estranged for more than 100 days since the second summit held on Feb 28 in Hanoi. However, it is still questionable whether closer relations can lead to a third round of talks and an agreement. As Hanoi’s example shows, a close relation does not mean that it can produce an agreement. The two countries’ stance on denuclearization still remains far apart.
In particular, North Korea refuses to respond to the U.S.’ request to close a big deal while urging the U.S. to change its position. “We are losing our patience. The U.S. should change its tactics and respond to our demands,” announced North Korea in a statement on the one-year anniversary of the first summit held in Singapore. It also commented Wednesday in its state newspaper that war can be prevented only by strong force, not foreign relations or begging. It remains questionable about how such threats were embellished in Kim’s letter, but the letter is no more than a symbol of “dialogue for the sake of dialogue” to earn time, even if working-level negotiations will resume.
North Korea did not send envoys to the funeral of former First Lady Lee Hee-ho, the wife of former President Kim Dae-jung, to pay condolences and simply sent a letter and flowers via Panmunjom. After the Hanoi Summit, North Korea even severed relations with the South, demanding us to “clearly state which side you are on.” Kim’s stance of ignoring the opportunity to engage in dialogue with the South while paying lip service to the U.S. shows no sign of change.
In a speech at Oslo University in Norway Wednesday, President Moon Jae-in quoted Einstein’s “Peace cannot be kept by force; it can only be achieved by understanding,” while asking for “mutual understanding and trust.” True words, of course, but such romanticized peace theory is frustrating in the reality of complicated international politics. Will South Korea stand on the sidelines while the U.S. and North Korea prepares for their next big show?