Last Thursday, the President of the United States and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un met to once again discuss diplomacy. The two leaders met in 2018 at the Singapore Summit for the first ever meeting between leaders of the DPRK and the US. Many decisions were made, including an agreement to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula. This time, however, talks did not go the same way. While both leaders believe that a deal can still be reached, Trump walked out claiming that Kim Jong Un proposed a complete lifting of the sanctions on North Korea in exchange for dismantling the main nuclear facility, but not all of them. North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho claims that this is not the case. Ri said in a statement that the DPRK only requested relief from the sanctions put in place in 2016 and 2017.
Many American politicians are praising President Trump for his decision to walk away, including former Vice-President Joe Biden. In a move similar to Ronald Reagan’s Reykjavik Summit, the general populace agrees that sometimes walking away is better than making a bad deal just for a photo op. The main sticking point seems to be a disagreement on what the term denuclearization will mean. The Trump administration is demanding a complete removal of all nuclear weapons, testing facilities, and building sites; while Kim Jong Un wants to cease production of nuclear weapons but maintain the systems already in place. The other argument is what North Korea should receive in return. Currently there are strict trading sanctions that limit the import of oil, luxury goods, natural gas; and export of North Korea’s main industry, seafood, coal, and textiles. It also bans all trade of arms and military equipment.
While talks did stall during this most recent summit, both countries’ leaders express optimism about future negotiations. While top North Korean leaders gave off a disappointed impression during a very rare press conference on Friday, Kim Jong Un claims to be impressed and appreciates Trump’s “active efforts toward results.” The Trump administration is expecting that the future talks will yield better results. The DPRK is facing economic collapse as sanctions limit an already failing economic system. Many believe that the current state of poverty would have been enough to push for a complete denuclearization, but once the US presented evidence of secret nuclear sites, the talks stalled. It seems clear that the original plan was to continue nuclear development while taking a deal to remove sanctions, something that Trump will not allow.
The coming weeks will see whether a new deal can be made between the two leaders. President Trump, author of The Art of the Deal, knows a little about how negotiations work. He is ready to allow Kim to wait and think about what has been proposed and return to a more cooperative leader. While the DPRK is not known for caring about its citizens, something that is often seen in dictatorships, economic collapse is something that they know they have to avoid. It is yet to be known if there are any potential uprisings in the media dark country, but experts believe that without quick relief, they could be on the way. This puts the United
States in a unique position of power that could allow for a disarmament similar to that of the end of the Cold War.