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(EDITORIAL from Korea Times on May 12)

2018/05/12 09:11

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Hope for big deal

: Trump, Kim make progress for Singapore summit

Washington and Pyongyang have agreed to hold their first summit in Singapore on June 12. This agreement means the two archrivals have cleared major hurdles to the historic face-to-face meeting between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

In other words, both sides have managed to narrow their differences over how to denuclearize the North. Reports have it that Washington and Pyongyang have made significant progress on the top issue of the summit's agenda -- denuclearization.

Such progress must have been made during last-minute negotiations between Kim and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who made his second visit to Pyongyang this week. After meeting with Kim, Pompeo flew back home with three Americans who were set free after having been held in the reclusive country. Their release served as a positive gesture for the upcoming summit.

Washington has also reportedly made efforts to mitigate its pressure on Pyongyang for fully abandoning its nuclear and missile development programs. Initially the U.S. called for the complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization (CVID). Then recently it came up with stricter terms: the permanent, verifiable and irreversible dismantling (PVID).

In the face of the North's backlash over the stronger demand, the U.S. seems to have dropped PVID and gone back to CVID. This was evident when Pompeo refrained from using the term PVID on his way to Pyongyang. It could be inferred that he made some concessions to the North regarding this matter when talking with Kim.

Therefore it can be said that Pyongyang has reached an agreement in principle on the complete denuclearization in return for security guarantees for the Kim dynasty. The two sides could have agreed on the scope and timetable for the denuclearization and verification process.

It is worth noting that Trump has become upbeat about the summit with Kim after hosting a ceremony to welcome the three Korean-Americans upon their arrival at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, early Thursday morning. He thanked Kim Jong-un for releasing them.

Announcing the setting and date for the summit, Trump expressed high hopes of "doing something very meaningful" to achieve the North's denuclearization. "We will both try to make it a very special moment for world peace!" he wrote on Twitter. He also said the U.S. is aiming for denuclearization of the "entire Korean Peninsula." It is necessary to pay attention to his use of the expression: the entire Korean Peninsula.

The usage is reminiscent of the Panmunjeom Declaration in which President Moon Jae-in and Kim agreed on the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula at the end of their historic summit April 27. It could be seen as Trump's understanding about what Kim's pledge for denuclearization really means.

Whether the upcoming summit will be a success or not will depend on Kim's genuine intention of giving up his nuclear ambitions. It is not desirable to be too optimistic about the prospects of the summit. Thus, the U.S. should work more closely with South Korea, China and Japan to strike a big deal which is much better than the Iran nuclear deal.

(END)

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