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(EDITORIAL from Korea Times on June 5)

All News 06:58 June 05, 2018

Who will pay the bill?
Trump passes burden on to Seoul, Beijing, Tokyo

The United States and North Korea are likely to agree ― in principle ― on a denuclearization formula during their historic summit scheduled for June 12 in Singapore. If their deal-making is successful enough, the formula will certainly be based on the North's full denuclearization in return for security guarantees and economic benefits.

Now the question is who will foot the bill for the possible deal between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un? This could be a tricky question because it is doubtful if any related parties are willing to shoulder the burden although they want to enjoy the denuclearization dividend.

Trump is certain to try to take the credit for a potentially high-stake deal with Kim if they agree to start the denuclearization and peace process. Trump might scramble for the Nobel Peace Prize, while taking advantage of the deal to break a political deadlock ahead of mid-term elections and then stand for re-election.

But Trump would certainly not bankroll the Kim regime for giving up its nuclear weapons program. He has already made it clear that the U.S. will not spend a lot of money on North Korea. Such a position is undoubtedly based on his signature "America first" policy.

After meeting Kim Yong-chol, vice chairman of the Central Committee of the North's ruling Workers' Party, at the White House, Friday, Trump told reporters that South Korea, China and Japan would be prepared to invest in the North to boost its dilapidated economy.

"I don't think the United States is going to have to spend," Trump said. Then he added, "South Korea will do that … China will help out … Japan will help out." He even said that the U.S. is 6,000 miles away from North Korea. He added that he had already told South Korea and Japan to get ready to invest in the North.

His remarks were apparently aimed at ruling out the possibility of the U.S. financing a nuclear deal even before it is made. How smart he is. No one can outsmart Trump as far as financing matters are concerned. Maybe Kim Jong-un is no match for Trump, who is best known for his business acumen. His "America first" slogan is nothing less than a beggar-thy-neighbor policy.

Trump's position on this matter is far different from an earlier commitment by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to allow American private sector investment in the North if the country dismantles its nuclear arsenal.

In mid-May, Pompeo said Americans would help invest in North Korean infrastructure and agriculture to help feed its people if Pyongyang complied with U.S. demands.

Now the burden-sharing problem is a cause for concern for South Korea. The Moon Jae-in government has pushed for detente with the North, mediating in arranging the Trump-Kim summit. President Moon should build a national consensus on how to pay for the North's denuclearization.

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