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(EDITORIAL from Korea Times on Feb. 11)

Editorials from Korean Dailies 07:03 February 11, 2019

For successful summit
Real progress depends on how to denuclearize North

The United States and North Korea have agreed to hold their second summit in Hanoi, Vietnam, Feb. 27 and 28. The venue of the summit was finally set over the weekend after the U.S., which favored the Vietnamese central seaside city of Da Nang, made a concession to the North which preferred Hanoi.

We welcome the agreement, hoping that the upcoming summit will mark a turning point in the stalled nuclear talks between Washington and Pyongyang. It is meaningful that the summit will be held in the Vietnamese capital, a symbol of the Southeast Asian country's economic reforms better known there as "doi moi."

On North Korea's part, the selection of Hanoi as the summit location may make it easy for its leader Kim Jong-un to make a state visit to Vietnam before or after meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump. If everything goes well for Kim, he can maximize the effects of his summit diplomacy. He is reportedly seeking to have a summit with Vietnamese President Nguyen Phu Trong.

Some pundits speculate Kim may adopt the Vietnamese development model to revive the moribund North Korean economy, which has been hit hard by international sanctions. In fact, he will become the first leader of the North to land in Vietnam in 54 years. His grandfather and founder of the North, Kim Il-sung held summits with then Vietnamese President Ho Chi Minh in 1958 and 1964.

In this regard, Kim Jong-un's planned visit to the country has significant ramifications, on top of the nuclear negotiations with Trump. He may seek to portray himself as a "normal" leader, shedding his hostile image. He may also want to strengthen ties with Vietnam and other ASEAN countries for economic cooperation after denuclearization talks with the U.S.

For these reasons, we express cautious optimism that the second Trump-Kim meeting may produce a real breakthrough, though not a perfect solution, in the nuclear issue. The new summit should be a starting point ― in a real sense ― for the denuclearization of and peace process on the Korean Peninsula.

However, much work remains to be done to ensure the success of the summit. There are tough negotiations underway to narrow differences over how to denuclearize the North. That's why we cannot shake off skepticism over Kim's real intentions.

During the second summit, Trump should get Kim to agree on concrete and substantive steps toward nuclear disarmament and the shelving of the country's missile development program. These steps may include a detailed timetable for "final, fully verifiable denuclearization." Kim needs to present a list of his regime's nuclear stockpile and agree to destroy plutonium and uranium enrichment facilities including the Yongbyon nuclear complex. He should also allow international inspections and verification.

As for "corresponding" steps for this, the U.S. may make a formal declaration to end the Korean War and provide security guarantees to the Kim regime. The Trump administration can open a liaison office in Pyongyang, a preparatory step toward diplomatic normalization.

However, Washington should be careful in accommodating Kim's demand for sanctions relief, although it can take a flexible attitude toward it. It should not risk undermining the denuclearization process by easing sanctions before Pyongyang makes observable progress in dismantling its nuclear arsenal.

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