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(News Focus) Trump-Kim meeting expected to deliver initial results

2018/05/11 08:16

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WASHINGTON, May 10 (Yonhap) -- U.S. President Donald Trump's announcement Thursday of a date and location for his meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un renewed cautious optimism for a deal to dismantle the North's nuclear weapons program.

The key, however, will be whether the terms are implemented after the two leaders come out of their historic June 12 meeting in Singapore.

"Trump and Kim wouldn't meet unless certain things have already been agreed to," Frank Aum, senior expert on North Korea at the U.S. Institute of Peace, said in an email to Yonhap.

The two sides will likely reach a broad agreement on denuclearization and peace, with some immediate concessions from both sides. North Korea could agree to freeze its nuclear and ballistic missile activities in exchange for a U.S. commitment to end its use of strategic and nuclear assets in joint military exercises with South Korea.

"Overall, I expect a successful, historic meeting, and perhaps even a surprise or two since you always have to expect the unexpected when Trump and Kim are involved," Aum said. "This being said, it's easy to come to an agreement. The hard part is in the implementation and verification process, which could mean a bumpier road later this year."

Robert Manning, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council think tank, said he is pessimistic that any deal will be implemented in the coming six to 24 months. But the summit will likely be successful at the level of principles.

"A quid pro quo of North Korean dismantlement and abandonment of its nuclear weapons and probably medium and long range missiles for some package of security, political and economic benefits," he said.

If North Korea is serious about denuclearization, as Kim has repeatedly stated, then it should take action to demonstrate it in the time between now and June 12, according to Bruce Bennett, a senior defense analyst at the RAND Corp.

The inter-Korean summit agreement on April 27, which called for a peace treaty to formally end the 1950-53 Korean War by the end of the year, makes it all the more necessary to quickly dismantle the nuclear program, he said.

"To me, this means North Korea should surrender about 5 nuclear weapons per month starting in May -- enough to eliminate by December the roughly 40 nuclear weapons it might have," Bennett said in a separate email. "It also means North Korea should disable one nuclear facility per month, starting with the Punggye-ri nuclear test site in May and the Yongbyon uranium enrichment facility in June."

   Kim has said that he will allow international journalists and experts to witness the closing of the Punggye-ri site this month. Critics have argued that the only reason Kim is shutting down the site is because he no longer has the need to test nuclear weapons. North Korea claims it is a nuclear state.

In choosing Singapore, both sides appear to have reached a compromise.

"I think Singapore is a sensible, neutral venue," Manning said. "I suspect the U.S. did not want to hold it at the DMZ, where Washington settled for a draw in the Korean War, particularly as it was said to involve questionable symbolism -- Trump crossing over to the North Korean side."

   The Demilitarized Zone dividing the Koreas was floated as a possible location by Trump, who said it would provide the backdrop for a "great celebration" if things worked out.

"Singapore is neutral, relatively close to North Korea, and has the infrastructure to provide security for the two leaders as well as provide a media-friendly backdrop," Aum said. "There weren't that many options that could fulfill these criteria. Singapore is probably the furthest that Kim has traveled as a leader so this experience could be interesting."

   Bennett noted that cultural and logistical issues probably played a role.

"First, Asian culture dictates that when two national leaders meet, the weak leader usually goes to meet the strong leader and pay his obeisance; thus Pyongyang would be an unacceptable location," he said. "Second, Kim Jong-un has to be able to get there on his own or he will lose face in North Korea. Reportedly, the North Korean transportation aircraft are in terrible shape and would be a bad risk for reaching desirable locations like Europe (e.g., Switzerland or Finland) or the United States (even though Kim Jong-un would likely love to see a professional basketball game in person). Beijing may not be acceptable because of the resulting Chinese influence on the meeting."

   hague@yna.co.kr

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