This file photo taken on June 12, 2018 shows U.S. President Donald Trump (R) gesturing as he meets with North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-Un (L) at the start of their historic US-North Korea summit, at the Capella Hotel on Sentosa island in Singapore. They’ll meet again this week in Hanoi.
SAUL LOEB / AFP/Getty Images
Kim Jong-un and Donald Trump will resume their summit diplomacy in Hanoi on Feb. 27 and 28.Kim has an initial negotiating advantage. He knows that Trump, having been outmanoeuvred by Kim at their Singapore Summit last year, and by the Democrats in budget negotiations, needs something to claim as a success. Moreover, Trump has provided Kim a gain simply by agreeing to meet twice, adding immeasurably to Kim’s status and legitimacy.Kim will play to Trump’s bias towards show over substance, offering limited and sometimes superficial and redundant measures in exchange for substantive action by the United States.The three key items for the summit are denuclearization, sanctions and a peace treaty.Foremost for the U.S. is denuclearization. The U.S. position remains that North Korea must undertake complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization before any sanctions relief. It wants a full inventory of North Korean ballistic missiles, nuclear, biological and chemical weapons and related facilities, international inspections and agreement on a dismantlement timetable.However, North Korea has rebuffed such demands since the Singapore Summit, where the U.S. and North Korea agreed to a vague and ambiguous commitment to denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, and it will continue to do so.Trump has undermined U.S. negotiators by declaring the North Korean threat over, backing off from demands for immediate denuclearization, being mollified by reassuring messages from Kim and periodically commenting about what he describes as Kim’s commitment to denuclearization. Trump’s belief in Kim’s intentions is contradicted by U.S. intelligence chiefs who testified to Congress that North Korea considers nuclear weapons vital to its national security and would be very unlikely to relinquish them. Since the Singapore Summit, North Korea has continued work on its missiles, nuclear fuel and weapons programs.Kim believes that he can exploit the divide within the U.S. government and Trump’s ad lib policy approach, and that Trump will settle for much less than what has been demanded, redefining denuclearization to match whatever is agreed upon. Hence Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s reported concern about leaving him alone for long with Kim.North Korea will offer to continue to suspend its nuclear and missile tests and to dismantle certain sites including obsolete ones. In return for major sanctions relief, Kim may offer to end his intercontinental missile (ICBM) program and dismantle the Yongbyon nuclear complex with international inspectors present. This would curtail North Korea’s ability to test and produce ICBMs and nuclear warheads but would not eliminate the existing stockpile of warheads.The second issue will be sanctions relief.Recent comments by Trump indicate a readiness to ease sanctions. He may agree to South Korea reopening the Kaesong industrial complex at the DMZ, allow South Korean tourists to visit Mount Kumgang, and agree to other South Korean investment and trade with North Korea. This would please both Koreas and would be a face-saving way to ease sanctions while formally retaining them. China and Russia would see this as a licence to ease their sanctions.The third issue is a declaration ending the Korean War and a peace treaty. Kim hopes to persuade Trump to make such a declaration, believing that Trump will attach more importance to a peace treaty – and the tantalizing lure of a Nobel Prize – than to denuclearization.A peace treaty is a long-term North Korea/China objective and would undermine the rationale for U.S. troops in South Korea and Japan. Those countries would be very concerned if Trump decided to reduce troops in South Korea. But this could appeal to Trump, who has long complained about the cost of maintaining those forces.This would compound concern about an agreement reached on ICBMs, which would leave South Korea and Japan exposed to North Korea’s short- and intermediate-range missiles and biological and chemical weapons.The U.S. and North Korea may also agree to set up liaison offices in their respective capitals and enhance humanitarian assistance.Ultimately, discussions at the summit are likely to set the stage for a future where North Korea retains a core supply of nuclear warheads but halts future production in return for relief of sanctions, heralding an ultimate shift from denuclearization to threat reduction.James Trottier is a Fellow of the Canadian Global Affairs Institute and a former career Canadian diplomat who was accredited to North Korea and led four Canadian diplomatic delegations to North Korea in 2015 and 2016. He also served at the Permanent Mission of Canada to the UN in New York and was the diplomatic liaison to U.S./UN Forces in South Korea. Email: email@example.comALSO IN THE NEWSSen. Lois Wilson: Canada should re-activate relations with North KoreaKim Jong Un has a game plan for his upcoming meeting with Trump — get him aloneDocuments suggest Ontario autism wait list frozen last fall, parents not told