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The Case for Optimism After the Trump-Kim Handshake Summit

June 30, 2019 in Economics

By Eric Gomez

Eric Gomez

President Donald Trump secured another historic first in
U.S.-North Korea relations earlier today when he crossed into North
Korean territory at Panmunjom before a brief meeting with Kim
Jong-un. The impromptu meeting—planned in less than two days
after Trump tweeted about wanting to meet with Kim—ended with
an announcement that the two countries would restart
working level talks in a bid to break the diplomatic impasse that
has persisted since the failed Hanoi summit in late February.

Any “summit” arranged on such short notice is bound
to contain more symbolism than substance, and many U.S. experts are
rightly noting that today’s meeting has done little to move
the needle toward denuclearization. However, looking at the
handshake summit solely from the perspective of denuclearization
misses other important aspects that increase the meeting’s
significance when taken into account.

If real progress is to be
made, Washington must fundamentally transform its relationship with
Pyongyang.

The handshake summit did not produce any obvious progress
towards North Korea’s denuclearization, but it does have
major implications for improving the general state of U.S.-North
Korea relations. While U.S. observers have paid more attention to
the third item of the Singapore summit’s joint statement, which commits Kim to
denuclearization, the first bullet point was explicitly focused on
improving the relationship saying, “The United States and the
DPRK commit to establish new U.S.-DPRK relations.”

Kim and Trump’s meeting moves both countries closer to
this new relationship. North Korea and the United States were not
in a good place after Hanoi. Communication channels shut down, Kim
issued warnings in an April speech, rebuilt a satellite launching
pad and test fired a new short-range ballistic missile.
If the impasse had persisted and the two sides dug in their heels
it isn’t difficult to see how the two countries could return
to the high tensions that were characterized by the “fire and fury” rhetoric of 2017. Instead,
the leaders of North Korea and the United States held a summit on
incredibly short notice and said they would try to break the
logjam. Such a meeting was unthinkable just a short while ago.

Transforming the U.S.-North Korea relationship
is the best path forward both for denuclearization and general
stability. Denuclearization has always been a pie-in-the-sky policy
objective, but changing the relationship is the best means to
achieve that goal since it is the only way to address the
structural factors that pushed North Korea to acquire nuclear
weapons in the first place. Even if relationship transformation
fails to achieve denuclearization—a very likely
outcome—it could open the door to negotiating …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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