According to the U.S. President Donald Trump, his consultation with Kim Yong-chol on Friday, January 18th was an “incredible meeting.” Kim Yong-chol is one of North Korea’s top negotiators and Trump intends to make progress with the country to ensure their de-nuclearisation. However, there is no certainty of this occurring in the near future. In response to this meeting, the White House stated that Trump will have a follow-up summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in late February. This would also ensure the maintenance of the economic sanctions on Pyongyang. Trump stated to reporters that “Kim Jong-un is looking very forward to it and so am I.” Although there has been positivity surrounding the meeting, neither Trump nor the White House has specified details of the conversation or how the differences between the U.S. demands over de-nuclearisation has gone.
The North Korean representative, Kim Yong-chol, is a close member of Kim Jong-un’s inner circle and veteran spy chief. Kim Jong-un also had a meeting on Friday, January 18th with the Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, as well as the American representative on North Korea, Stephen Biegun. According to the State Department, they had “a productive first meeting at the working level,” Trump told reporters that “We have made a lot of progress as far as de-nuclearisation is concerned and we are talking about a lot of different things… Things are going very well with North Korea,” In fact, the first summit in June that was held in Singapore 2018, was the first ever sitting between an American president and a North Korean leader. This meeting resulted in a loose commitment by Kim Jong-un that they would work towards denuclearisation within the Korean peninsula.
Although this was a positive step forward, there has been no concrete plans towards ensuring this. According to Suzanne DiMaggio, from the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, “Since Singapore, the negotiations have consistently hit a brick wall.” However, she went on to state that “Biegun meeting with Cho is progress. The key will be to see how those talks go – if they meet regularly and interact closely. They don’t have a lot of time.” Therefore, a follow-up meeting brings hope for further collaboration between the states. A possible host country for the next meeting is in Vietnam, however, no concrete plans have been made or announced. There have also been several criticisms towards Trumps meeting, stating that Trump’s efforts only boost up Kim Jong-un’s ego and international figure.
North Korea have become a threat to national security because of their sophisticated nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs. Since Singapore, North Korea has continued its temporary pause in nuclear tests and the U.S. has stopped joint military exercises between the U.S. and South Korean forces. However, this has not led to adequate dismantling of Pyongyang’s nuclear programme. In fact, there has been evidence that North Korea has only enhanced their uranium enrichment which has accelerated missile production. There are also fears circulating that the publicity surrounding this event is to distract the public from the domestic challenges within the country. The current issue for the U.S. is trying to convince North Korea to give up their nuclear weapons when the U.S. has not removed their own. Especially since the threats from President Trump to attack with “fire and fury.”
Currently, the relationship between Trump and Kim Jong-un remain stable and professional from the surface. However, there is no telling that there are deeper tensions between these states, with very little understanding of how these powers will balance. The theory of realism would argue that these states would find themselves in inevitable conflict due to the strive for power maximization as the global hegemon. However, this should be avoided at all costs to ensure global safety and international peace. Finding alternative ways of handling tensions will be extremely necessary, especially due to the fatality attached to such a nuclear arsenal that each state possess.
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