What will be the outcome?

What will be the outcome?
The historic summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un and US President Donald Trump is slated to take place on June 12th, 2018. The North Korean state media has reported tha

The historic summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un and US President Donald Trump is slated to take place on June 12th, 2018. The North Korean state media has reported that the nation is looking to re-set its ties with the United States and possibly even seek friendly relations.

Background

Kim Jong-un is current Supreme Leader of North Korea. He has served in this position since 2011 after his father passed away and has also been the Leader of the Workers' Party of Korea since 2012. He is the second child of Kim Jong-Il and the grandson of Kim Il-Sung, the first leader of North Korea.  He is the first North Korean leader to have been born after the country's founding.

Ties between North Korea and the US have been historically hostile. The two nations have failed to establish a cordial relationship mainly due to the Korean War. During the war between North and South Korea in 1950, US forces successfully intervened on behalf of South Korea. To this day, there are 28,500 American soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines in South Korea as part of United States Forces Korea (USFK).

In recent years, relations have been largely defined by North Korea's six tests of nuclear weapons, its development of long-range missiles capable of striking targets thousands of miles away, and its ongoing threats to strike the United States and South Korea with nuclear weapons and conventional forces. During his presidency, George W. Bush even referred to North Korea as part of "the Axis of Evil" because of the threat of its nuclear capabilities.

However, since the beginning of 2018, global tensions with the isolated state began to ease. Pyongyang has indicated that it is willing to re-establish diplomatic ties with the outside world, beginning with the PyeongChang Olympics, which were hailed as the “Peace Olympics”. In April, US officials confirmed that then-CIA director Mike Pompeo had visited Kim Jong-Un in a top-secret meeting over Easter. On April 27th, North and South Korean leaders Kim Jong-Un and Moon Jae-In held a historic summit, the first in over a decade. The two nations announced that they have agreed to end the 60-year Korean War and signed the Panmunjom Declaration which agreed to denuclearise North Korea.

Analysis

The 2018 North Korea–United States summit will be the first summit between a sitting United States President and the leader of North Korea. It will take place on 12th June, 2018 at the Capella Hotel on Sentosa Island in Singapore. The nation was chosen perhaps because it has shared cordial ties to both North Korea and the United States. Some experts have even suggested that some of the old-fashioned planes in North Korea would not be able to fly as far as Switzerland and hence Singapore was chosen.

The famous Gurkha contingent (part of a tribe from Nepal) has been tasked from protecting the two leaders during the historic summit. President Trump has significantly softened his stance against the isolated nation. He had earlier demanded for complete and immediate denuclearization as a prerequisite. However, now he has stated that he just wants to take the first step in diplomacy. "We're not going to go in and sign something on June 12 ... We're going to start a process," he told reporters.

For its part, North Korea is seeking a diplomatic and formal relationship with the US, according to its state media. The editorial in one of the publications, Rodong Sinmun, stated that Kim Jong-Un will be meeting with Trump and then seeking to “establish a new relationship to meet the changing demands of the new era.”

It said "broad and in-depth opinions" would be exchanged to "establish a permanent and peaceful regime in the Korean peninsula and to solve problems that are of common concern, including issues to realise the denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula". The editorial also added, “Even if a country had a hostile relationship with us in the past, our attitude is that if this nation respects our autonomy... we shall seek normalisation through dialogue.” Traveling with the North Korean leader are top officials including Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho, Defence Minister No Kwang Chol and Kim Yong Chol (who played a key role in establishing rules for the summit). His sister is also part of the delegation.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who is also in Singapore, said in a tweet that Washington was “committed to the complete, verifiable, irreversible denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula”. President Trump has also spoken about the summit simply tweeting, “In a tweet on Monday, he said: “Great to be in Singapore, excitement in the air!”

Interestingly, National Security Adviser John Bolton, who is also part of the US delegation has stated that he wanted North Korea to follow the “Libya model.” Libya gave up its nuclear program and in 2011; its then leader Muammar Gaddafi had been killed by rebels who were backed by NATO.

Assessment

Our assessment is that it is presently hard to predict the outcome of summit as both Kim Jong-Un and Trump prefer to hold their cards close to the chest.  The United States would try to negotiate total de-nuclearization, in return for economic assistance. In turn, North Korea would insist that there be no attempt for a regime change, and US support to enhance its image as a regional power. We feel that this may be the first of several meetings in a long negotiation process.

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