U.S. President Donald Trump said Saturday (local time) that a second summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is likely to take place in “January or February,” and three possible venues are under consideration. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also said that a second meeting would happen early next year. Washington’s comments that show the administration’s firm willingness to pursue the second summit, came amid rising concerns over the stalled denuclearization talks between the two sides.
Chaotic circumstances following the historic Singapore summit demonstrate that the denuclearization move cannot move forward unless the North Korean leader takes steps. In this sense, a second Trump-Kim meeting is an important opportunity where Kim can express the regime’s sincere willingness toward denuclearization instead of vague rhetoric seen in the previous three inter-Korean summits and the Singapore summit.
To that end, South Korea, the United States, and the international community should raise their voice in unison so that the North can abandon its false hope of having sanctions lifted first. President Trump, in his meeting with President Moon in Buenos Aires on Saturday, stressed the administration’s stance that the sanctions against Pyongyang cannot be eased before the peninsula’s final, fully verifiable denuclearization (FFVD). This means that Washington has no intention to make concessions to the North, which is calling for “corresponding measures.”
Kim Jong Un should acutely realize that sanctions relief cannot take place unless his regime first takes actual steps toward irreversible denuclearization, and that the North cannot have it all: nuclear weapons and economic development. In the same vein, Kim’s visit to Seoul should be also arranged following thoughtful, strategic consideration of a big picture to achieve denuclearization. If the Seoul government gets obsessed with making Kim’s visit happen by the year’s end, what we will get as a result may be only an idealistic hug between leaders that in the end comes to nothing.