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(News Focus) Inter-Korean summit shifts focus to Trump's ability to make nuclear deal

All Headlines 10:08 April 28, 2018

WASHINGTON, April 27 (Yonhap) -- The inter-Korean summit that ended with an agreement to achieve complete denuclearization shifts focus to U.S. President Donald Trump's ability to make it a reality.

In their joint declaration, South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un called for a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula. They stopped short of offering details on how that would be achieved.

The ball is now in Trump's court to map out a course for the denuclearization of the regime.

This image shows South Korean President Moon Jae-in (C), North Korean leader Kim Jong-un (L) and U.S. President Donald Trump. (Yonhap)

"The summit represents a great and earnest statement by the two Korean leaders and all Korean people that there should never be a war on the Korean Peninsula again. I think this is important and is appreciated by the world," said Victor Cha, a former White House National Security Council official, in comments sent to Yonhap.

"But what this summit also made clear is the importance of the United States to fulfilling the goals laid out by the two Korean leaders," he said, citing the agreement to work for a peace treaty that will replace the armistice of the 1950-53 Korean War.

The U.S. and China -- both signatories of the armistice -- will need to be involved in any peace treaty, according to Cha, currently the Korea chair at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. The promise to work toward denuclearization also falls short of past agreements to "abandon all nuclear weapons" or to not possess weapons, enrichment or reprocessing facilities.

"What this summit then sets up is the key meeting between Trump and Kim," Cha said. "Trump will have to live up to his self-proclaimed greatness as a negotiator to achieve an end to the program. The stakes could not be higher."

Trump, in response to a reporter's question earlier this week, said his definition of complete denuclearization is "very simple."

"It means they get rid of their nukes," he said. "It would be very easy for me to make a simple deal and claim victory. I don't want to do that. I want them to get rid of their nukes."

Trump has said he will meet Kim in May or early June. In the meantime he has praised the North Korean leader -- whom he previously derided as "Little Rocket Man" -- for being "very open" and "very honorable."

Bruce Cumings, an American historian known for his book "Origins of the Korean War," said both Trump and Kim will be under pressure to make their meeting a success.

"I think the worldwide attention, and the success of this (inter-Korean) summit, will make the Trump-Kim meeting even more important," he said.

But progress on denuclearization might not come early.

"Denuclearization came at the end of the official (inter-Korean) statement, and I don't think it's possible at this point to indicate how serious the North is in implementing that part of the agreement," Cumings said. "I'm sure the North wants to have a tit-for-tat negotiation with the United States, so that they get something for everything they give up. That suggests it will be a long negotiation."

Robert Manning, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council think tank, called for a nuclear dismantlement plan.

"Kim should reach an agreement with Trump to frontload a deal," he said. "They can get sanctions relief and other security and economic benefits quickly if they take immediate steps to disable their nuclear reactor, missile production facilities and highly enriched uranium facilities, and agree on a road map to complete, verified dismantlement by 2020."

Trump and Kim should also push for a four-party dialogue involving their two countries, South Korea and China, which will set them on a path to a peace treaty through mutual force reductions and confidence-building measures, Manning said.


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