A significant news of the last few days was of the US President Donald Trump setting foot on the North Korean soil. He is, momentously, the first US President to do so what would’ve been unthinkable till recently.
Never in the history of the US-North Korea has any previous US Presidents dared to take such a step given how deeply the US establishment, media and people see North Korea as a rogue nation and therefore, an enemy. Trump in his typical unorthodox style, through Twitter, had announced that he is willing to visit Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), which separates two Koreas, to meet North Korean supremo Kim Jong-un.
Trump was in the region for the G-20 summit in Osaka, Japan. On June 29, from his hotel room in Osaka, he took to Twitter and invited Kim Jong-un at the border DMZ for a ‘handshake’. Trump was scheduled to visit DMZ.
His tweet surprised everyone including North Korean supremo and Kim readily agreed. Trump travelled to the DMZ with South Korean President Moon Jae-in. First Trump and Kim held a meeting and then it was trilateral as Moon joined at Peace House. The US President and North Korean supremo agreed to resume dialogue which was stalled after a failed summit in Hanoi, Vietnam. Kim invited Trump to cross the line which has divided both Koreas since 1953. Trump walked 20 steps in North Korea and told Kim, “It was an honour that you asked me to step over the line.” Trump extended an invitation to Kim to visit the United States.
So far, it was good. But, things always do not move smoothly when it comes to the US-North Korea. North Korea on Wednesday accused the US of being ‘hell-bent on hostile acts’ just days after leaders of both the countries agreed to resume denuclearisation talks. Pyongyang leaders to the UN said, on one hand, Trump invited Kim to hold talks and on the other the US had also sent a letter to all UN members urging them to send back North Korean workers. The letter was sent on June 29, the day Trump invited Kim for a ‘handshake’. Recently, North Korea also attacked Mike Pompeo, US Secretary of State, over the sanctions.
The Democrats were sceptical of the June 30 meeting. They questioned how productive the meeting was regarding denuclearisation. The fact is the two sides are only back to the negotiating table. But, again it is too difficult to predict where it will go.
The main issue is the denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula. In principle, Kim also agrees to denuclearisation. The issue is linked with demilitarisation. It may be recalled, that in August 2017, Trump had threatened Kim with military action by saying ‘fire and fury like the world has never seen.’ North Korea responded by testing a long-range ballistic missile and sixth nuclear test. Later, Kim sent a signal for dialogue and they met in Singapore in June 2018. On February 27-28 they again met in Hanoi. The summit failed. The US had asked North Korea to unilaterally surrender its entire nuclear weapons programme. Pyongyang demanded an end to all sanctions before they could discuss on denuclearisation. Kim had offered to dismantle all of the Yongbyon nuclear facility and in return, it wanted US to lift all the sanctions. But, the US’s contention was North Korean nuclear facilities extend even beyond Yongbyon.
Both the countries need to take the dialogue forward and should keep away from making statements which will anger the other. Only dialogue has the potential to turn Korean peninsula into a denuclearised region. Now, the issue before Trump and Kim is how to proceed towards denuclearisation. Both of them have to adopt a pragmatic approach towards each other. The dialogue is always a process and one cannot expect it to happen in a one or two meetings or summit. Both are working, behind the scenes, over a possible third summit. Hopefully, it will be held in the near future.