Kim Jong-un holds the key
: Possible visit to Seoul could break deadlock
Presidents Moon Jae-in and Donald Trump have pinned their hope on North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's possible visit to Seoul this month to get the deadlocked nuclear talks back on track. Kim's visit, if realized, could provide fresh momentum for denuclearization of the North and the peace process on the Korean Peninsula.
During their meeting last week on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Moon and Trump agreed to work together to persuade Kim to take a path toward denuclearization and peace. Trump lent support to Moon's effort to host Kim in Seoul, which would be the first trip to Seoul by a North Korean leader as agreed during Moon and Kim's third summit in Pyongyang in September.
Trump's support has helped ease the U.S.' firm position that inter-Korean detente should keep pace with the denuclearization talks between Washington and Pyongyang. It has also reflected Trump's willingness to take advantage of Kim's Seoul visit to resume U.S.-North Korean high-level talks and open the way for a second Trump-Kim summit in January or February.
For his part, Moon refrained from putting forward his idea of easing sanctions on the Kim regime to facilitate the North's denuclearization. He shared the common ground with Trump that international sanctions should stay in place until Pyongyang dismantles its nuclear arsenal completely.
Taken overall, we assess the outcome of the latest Moon-Trump summit positively as the two leaders managed to narrow their difference over the speed of inter-Korean rapprochement and the issue of sanctions relief. It is important for the two allies to step up cooperation to make sure North Korea has a bright future if it faithfully implements its commitment to abandon its nuclear and missile programs.
In this regard, it is worth noting that Trump asked Moon to pass on a message to Kim that he liked the North Korean leader and would fulfill his wishes if he denuclearizes. Moon told reporters, "As such, he asked me to tell Chairman Kim he wants to implement the rest of their agreement together and he will fulfill Chairman Kim's wishes."
Now the ball is in North Korea's court. It is up to Kim to make good on his promise to travel to Seoul and sit with Trump for their second summit after the first one in Singapore in June. We urge Kim to respond positively to Moon and Trump's efforts for the resumption of their top-down diplomacy to find a negotiated solution to the North Korean nuclear issue.
Of course, it may be difficult for Kim to follow through on his commitment to complete denuclearization because he is still concerned about the survival of his regime without nuclear weapons. That is why he has repeatedly asked the U.S. for security guarantees as well as a formal declaration of an end to the 1950-53 Korean War. Kim has also continued to seek sanctions relief before the North starts the denuclearization process.
Most of all, the U.S. and the North should first build trust so they can bridge their differences and move toward implementing their commitment to denuclearization. Without trust-building efforts, the two foes can never make any progress.
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