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Trump to be flexible on N. Korea denuclearization deadline: expert

2018/05/11 15:38

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By Lee Chi-dong

SEOUL, May 11 (Yonhap) -- U.S. President Donald Trump appears open to lowering the bar for a big deal in denuclearization talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, though he's not considering moving the goal post itself, a well-known pundit here said Friday.

In their summit to be held in Singapore on June 12, Trump apparently believes sticking to an agreement and attaining a nuclear-free peninsula is more important than setting a tight deadline, according to Jun Bong-geun, chief of security and unification studies at the state-run Korean National Diplomatic Academy.

Ridding the North of its nuclear program is expected to "take a very long time," despite the Trump administration's push for a speedy process. U.S. officials said they want significant progress in six to 12 months with the aim of completing the work before the next U.S. presidential election in November 2020.

Jun said there could be a "point of compromise" between Trump and Kim on the road map for the denuclearization of Korea for a package deal.

He was speaking to reporters on a "new alternative" reportedly suggested by Trump.

A combined image of U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un (Yonhap) A combined image of U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un (Yonhap)

Meeting with Kim in Pyongyang earlier this week, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo conveyed Trump's verbal message on the unspecified proposal, said the North's official news agency KCNA.

Kim "highly appreciated that the U.S. president has shown deep interest in settling the issue through dialogue," it said.

It was not immediately confirmed whether the new offer was about a specific denuclearization schedule, method or the logistics of their upcoming summit.

Jun noted that it's a common strategy to put forward maximum demands before difficult negotiations or in the early stage of talks and lower the bar later to pull off an agreement.

In that sense, the U.S. is expected to take a rather flexible stance on the time frame, while sticking to the goal of achieving the complete, verifiable, irreversible dismantlement (CVID) of the North's nuclear arsenal.

Pompeo once used the word PVID (permanent, verifiable, irreversible dismantlement) to highlight the importance of permanent denuclearization, sparking media speculation here about Washington's intentions, but the Trump administration has returned to the CVID jargon.

Encouraged by the release of three American hostages from North Korea, Trump publicly said, "Some great things can happen" in his Singapore meeting with Kim.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis also said, "There is reason for some optimism that these talks could be fruitful."

   The thornier issue, however, will be the scope of inspections and verification, Jun pointed out.

The U.S. will likely seek "unlimited" inspections of the North's nuclear arms inventory and facilities, but Pyongyang will try to allow the monitoring or supervision of its work to "freeze or shut down" nuclear activities, he added.

lcd@yna.co.kr

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