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What Kim Is Thinking: We Can Get Inside the Head of North Korea’s Leader If We Read the Signs

April 19, 2019 in Economics

By Eric Gomez

Eric Gomez

After an extended period of silence since the failure of the
U.S.-North Korea summit in Hanoi, a flurry of activity and
statements by North Korea’s leadership has clarified their
post-summit game plan. A major speech by Kim Jong Un to the Supreme
People’s Assembly (SPA), a rhetorical fusillade against U.S. secretary of
state Mike Pompeo
by North Korea’s ministry of foreign affairs,
and an upcoming summit with Russian President Vladimir
were especially important developments.

These three actions show that Kim is still open to diplomacy
with the United States, but he will pressure President Trump to
change U.S. demands while simultaneously hedging his bets and
preparing for an outcome where Trump doesn’t lift sanctions.

Kim’s silence after the Hanoi summit led to a period of
uncertainty and speculation. Choe Son Hui, a high-ranking North Korean foreign ministry
, was vocal after the summit and warned that Kim might reverse a moratorium on long-range
missile and nuclear weapons testing. Choe’s comments coincided with
signs of activity at a North Korean satellite
launch facility
, but there was no rocket launch and Kim did not
personally reveal his calculations.

Kim’s address to the SPA is the first time he has publicly laid
out his assessment of the Hanoi summit’s collapse and his view of
the path forward.

In the speech, Kim said that North Korea came to Hanoi prepared
to take “prudent and trustworthy measures” to build on
the joint statement agreed to at the first U.S.-North
Korea summit in Singapore
. However, he regarded the Trump
administration’s push for a bigger deal at Hanoi as
“absolutely impractical.” Given this experience at the
last summit, Kim is unwilling to meet with Trump again unless the
United States “adopts a correct posture and comes
forward…with a certain methodology that can be shared with [North

In other words, North Korea is still open to dialogue with the
United States if Trump drops the idea of a big deal. Kim probably
wants to move to a step-for-step approach where the United States
relaxes sanctions in exchange for North Korean actions toward

An example of this approach was on the table at the Hanoi summit. North
Korea proposed to dismantle its nuclear facilities at Yongbyon in
exchange for relaxing sanctions that hindered inter-Korean economic
projects. The summit fell apart after the details of the exchange
couldn’t be worked out, including U.S. concerns about the
unclear scope of dismantlement activities that would happen after
loosening sanctions.

The North Korean foreign ministry’s criticism of Pompeo and the call to replace …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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