How they see us: Can Trump talk sense into Kim?
An “astonishing and unprecedented” diplomatic summit could finally bring peace to the Korean Peninsula, said The Hankyoreh (South Korea) in an editorial. U.S. President Donald Trump last week abruptly accepted an invitation from North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un to hold direct talks by May. Nothing less than the scrapping of North Korea’s nuclear weapons program will be on the table at that meeting, according to the South Korean envoys who delivered the invitation to the White House. The speed of the breakthrough has surprised everyone. Talks in the past—six-party affairs comprising the two Koreas, the U.S., China, Japan, and Russia—involved months of tedious planning, and some nations may feel they are being frozen out by Kim and Trump. But South Korea won’t waste this opportunity. It is already scrambling diplomatic teams to Beijing, Tokyo, and Russia, knowing that “the support and guarantees of those countries will be essential for the denuclearization measures.”
The Trump administration needs more diplomatic boots on the ground if these talks are to succeed, said the Yomiuri Shimbun (Japan). The posts of U.S. ambassador to South Korea and special representative for North Korea policy remain unfilled. Without a skilled U.S. negotiating team with expert insight into what Kim is thinking, the North Koreans could easily outmaneuver Trump. And even if Kim agrees to denuclearize, his word alone should not result in concessions from the U.S. North Korea must also agree to let the International Atomic Energy Agency inspect its nuclear facilities and verify the disposal of nuclear materials. “U.S.–North Korea summits are nothing but starting points for a long and steep road toward achieving denuclearization.”
This is just another of Kim’s ploys, said Yang Sang-hoon in the Chosun Ilbo (South Korea). International sanctions are starting to produce real pain for North Korean officials, who support their comfortable lifestyles by skimming money from trade with China. But foreign-currency income from exports is expected to drop by up to 90 percent this year. Kim’s goal is to “shield himself from the impending maelstrom” that will hit if the North Korean elite rebel against him. He has no intention of giving up his nukes; he simply wants sanctions relief so that he can survive the next two years, enough time to build more than 100 warheads. “Once his nuclear arsenal reaches that level, the crisis will reach a whole new dimension.”
That’s why sanctions relief must come only after Pyongyang has shown it is serious, said the JoongAng Ilbo (South Korea). North Korea’s official state newspaper, the Rodong Sinmun, has been railing about U.S. sanctions and hasn’t even mentioned the possible Trump-Kim summit. Such a “hostile environment” doesn’t bode well for talks, and most experts believe there’s only a 50 percent chance they’ll take place. If they do, we must follow the lead of South Korean President Moon Jae-in, whose policy of outreach led to this opportunity. Negotiations, he says, must be approached “as carefully as handling glass.” ■