White House confirms plans for Second Trump-Kim summit

Washington confirmed that talks are underway with North Korea over setting up a second summit meeting between President Trump and leader Kim Jong Un.

Background

The relationship between the US and North Korea has always been fractious. During the war between North and South Korea in 1950, US forces successfully intervened on behalf of South Korea.

The North Korean nuclear program has been a source of concern for the US and the international community for decades. North Korea has remained an isolated nation and its nuclear program has especially been a concern for the international community. In 2017, North Korea had launched 23 missiles in the course of 16 tests. In November 2017, North Korea after seemingly two months of silence tested its most potent missile yet. The Hwasong-15 missile reached an unprecedented height of almost 4,500 kilometers (2,800 miles). The Hwasong-15 is a new type of intercontinental ballistic missile. This represents a serious escalation in the stability of the Korean peninsula.

Trump has taken an aggressive stance while countering North Korea. In 2017, he said that North Korea “will be met with fire and the fury like the world has never seen.” North Korea responded by announcing that plans were underway for it to strike Guam, a US territory. Both Kim Jong Un and Donald Trump were locked in an extended war of words in 2017, with both threatening wars.

Analysis

The White House says talks have begun with North Korea for the second meeting between Trump and Kim Jong Un. Press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters that Kim requested the follow-up to the historic Singapore summit in June in a “warm, very positive letter” to Trump delivered in recent days. “It’s something that we want to take place and are already working on making that happen,” Sanders said, although she emphasized that no decisions have been made regarding timing or a venue.

The announcement was the latest sign that Trump, despite growing frustration, remains heavily invested in the efforts to get Pyongyang to comply with pledges to denuclearize made during the Singapore meeting. Trump abruptly cancelled a planned visit by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to Pyongyang three weeks ago, citing a lack of progress.

The President has reacted positively to Kim’s recent overture, boasting at a rally in Montana late last week that Kim had “said some terrific things about me.”

Sanders said the White House would not release a copy of Kim’s letter without Pyongyang’s permission. She cited North Korea’s decision not to include ballistic missiles in a military parade in Pyongyang over the weekend as a sign that the Kim regime was taking steps not to antagonize the United States.

“The recent parade in North Korea, for once, was not about their nuclear arsenal,” Sanders said. “The president has achieved tremendous success with his policies so far. And this letter was further evidence of progress in that relationship.”

Some analysts had pointed to the U.N. General Assembly meetings in New York, which are set to take place in two weeks as a possible venue for a Trump-Kim meeting, but the North Korean leader has offered no indication that he plans to attend. U.S. officials have privately suggested it is unlikely that such a meeting would take place there during Trump’s two-day visit.

In recent weeks, Trump has accused China, in the midst of an escalating trade war with the United States, of exerting negative influence over Kim, that had contributed to the breakdown in negotiations. South Korean officials said after meeting with Kim that the North Korean leader pledged to denuclearize by 2020 when Trump would face a re-election effort. Analysts suggested that the timeline signals that Kim believes he needs to lock in a peace treaty before Trump leaves office because a successor is less likely to engage in such negotiations.

Assessment

Our assessment is that North Korea and the US will agree to another meeting but neither party will cede their basic demands. The US is unlikely to lift sanctions before North Korea denuclearizes, whereas North Korea is unwilling to denuclearize before the sanctions are lifted. We feel that a new era may be on the horizon for both the US and North Korea which will be built on a mutual distrust of the status quo.