Preparations underway for second summit between Trump and Kim

Trump and Kim By: Jeremy Pekoff, Analyst, Asia Section
Analytical Question: Will a nuclear treaty be signed this year between the US and North Korea?

Despite a drastic reduction in tensions and increased dialogue between North Korea and the United States, North Korea has not taken any major steps in dismantling its nuclear weapons program since the leaders of both countries first met back in June of 2018. Now a second summit between US President Donald Trump and the Supreme Leader of North Korea Kim Jong Un is scheduled to take place between February 27 and 28. It could be stated with moderate confidence that this summit will not result in the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

North Korea has not taken any significant steps towards denuclearization since the first summit between Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un on June 12, 2018 in Singapore. At the meeting, North Korea promised to work towards denuclearization and in return the United States would provide Pyongyang with security guarantees. How denuclearization would be conducted and verified was not specified at the summit (Anon. 2019). The lack of details provided from the first summit could be attributed to why North Korea has yet to take any major steps towards the denuclearization process, including providing the United States with a complete list of its nuclear arsenal.

To make further breakthroughs on denuclearization, a second summit between the United States and North Korea has been scheduled for February 27-28. Recently the US special representative for North Korea Stephen Biegun went to the location of the second summit in Vietnam to meet with his North Korean counterpart Kim Hyok Chol. Here they were expected to lay the groundwork for the anticipated summit (Brunnstrom 2019). In his visit, Biegun said he hoped to build upon some of the promises that were indicated by Kim last September, such as the permanent dismantlement of North Korea’s main nuclear site of Yongbyon. Biegun has stated that although he believes that a lot of progress has already been made, there are still many issues that must be negotiated before North Korea denuclearizes such as sanctions relief (Brunnstrom 2019).

US President Donald Trump has been eager to attend a second summit with Kim Jong Un (Brunnstrom, 2019). Trump has stated that he wants to see North Korea denuclearize, but he is in no rush to see them do so as long as they refrain from conducting missile tests (Riechmann 2019). At this meeting the US will push North Korea to end its nuclear weapons program, and North Korea will be seeking a lift in sanctions, security guarantees and a formal declaration to end the Korean war (Brunnstrom 2019). North Korea’s nuclear weapons pose a major national security threat to the US This meeting has the potential of laying out the groundwork for the eventual denuclearization of North Korea.

Given the fact that North Korea has yet to take any major steps to dismantle its nuclear facilities, its extensive history of pulling out of nuclear deals, and evidence that it is continuing to produce materials that could be used for nuclear weapons, it could be stated with moderate confidence that North Korea currently does not intend to disband its nuclear weapons program (Brunnstrom 2019). The state of North Korea’s nuclear program depends largely on the negotiations that will take place during the upcoming summit.