After receiving a letter from North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, the White House said that it is open to having another meeting with North Korea and “already in the process of coordinating” the meeting. White House spokesperson Sarah Sanders said the letter from Kim Jong Un showed “a continued commitment to focus on denuclearization of the Peninsula.” National Security Adviser John Bolton said the second U.S.-North Korea summit could absolutely be held sometime within the year. It seems the talks between the two countries have gone beyond high-level talks and headed straight toward the second round of direct negotiations between their leaders.
The process of resuming the stalled talks with North Korea reminds us of the situation ahead of the Singapore summit in June. Trump canceled the first summit in letter to Kim Jong Un and this prompted the two Koreas to have an inter-Korean summit in Panmunjom. After Kim’s letter was delivered to Trump by a messenger, Trump announced that the summit would be held as planned. The United States and North Korea will have multiple negotiations before the second summit, including high-level and working-level talks, but all attention is already on the summit, which is rumored to be held in October in Washington.
If the North Korean nuclear issue is again negotiated from the top-down, even when the North has not even begun denuclearization process, the North may demand this "unique negotiation method" at every denuclearization phase that includes a nuclear freeze, verification, and dismantlement. Trump is highly motivated ahead of the U.S. midterm election. In his recent tweet, he wrote, “We (Kim and Trump) will both prove everyone wrong!” There is high possibility that the second summit will end up like the first one in Singapore, which only left a shoddy joint statement.
Trump’s impulsive diplomacy has already exposed its limits. To be sure, Washington, which is run by a system, must not be that clumsy. According to some reports, the U.S. intelligence agency is still suspicious of North Korea based on its intelligence that the North has produced five to eight new nuclear weapons this year. Eventually, the United States needs to get North Korea to take concrete steps toward denuclearization, such as reporting and freezing its nuclear weapons, through careful negotiations. Only then will Kim Jong Un realize that he cannot get his own way by paying lip service to Trump.
The South Korean government should not consider itself as only a mediator. President Moon Jae-in praised North Korea Tuesday for suspending its nuclear and missile tests and shutting down nuclear and missile test sites by saying, “(North Korea) showed its sincerity by taking practical measures.” He urged the two countries to “set out a daring plan and make a bold decision once again.” His message appears to be aimed at creating a gentle atmosphere ahead of the inter-Korean summit scheduled next week. But it is worrisome that his remarks, which seem to contain Kim Jong Un’s words delivered by the South Korean envoy, might encourage Kim’s arrogance.