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(EDITORIAL from Korea JoongAng Daily on May 12)

2018/05/12 09:12

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Trump-Kim summit must succeed

There is one clear goal for the summit between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. They must agree on a road map for the complete, verifiable and irreversible dismantling of North Korea’s nuclear weapons.

During their meeting on April 27, South Korean President Moon Jae-in and Kim declared their commitment to a "nuclear-free" Korean Peninsula. The two Koreas and the United States must coordinate on how to ensure security for the North Korean regime in return for its weapons.

A more radical comprehensive deal is possible by replacing the 1953 armistice with a peace treaty, normalizing diplomatic ties between Pyongyang and Washington and offering economic aid and rewards for North Korea.

There were concerns about a last-minute breakdown with Kim reiterating a "phased and synchronized" approach, while Washington was flagging a take-it-or-leave it option of permanent dismantlement over a short period of time. But the mood reversed after U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo returned home from Pyongyang on Thursday with three American detainees and set a date and location for the summit.

Since Pompeo laid the groundwork by flying to Pyongyang to "make sure that we're square about what isn't, what our expectations are" and Trump voiced high expectations for successful results from his meeting with Kim, Washington and Pyongyang may have found a middle ground on the scope and timing of denuclearization as well as other terms.

Pompeo once floated the stricter idea of "permanent" dismantlement to ensure North Korea had no capability to renew its weapons program, but the language was toned down to "complete" after his return. The tweak suggests Pyongyang might have presented its own timetable. Instead of "denuclearizing North Korea," Trump has gone to talking about denuclearizing "the entire peninsula."

   Washington may be agreeing to stop deploying strategic weapons, including nuclear warships, to regular military exercises on the Korean Peninsula. It is unclear whether Pyongyang is demanding the peninsula's exclusion from the United States'nuclear umbrella. The Trump-Kim summit must succeed, but Seoul must also ensure the safety of the South Korean people in any kind of deal.

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