Since the Hanoi summit between the US and North Korea ended with no agreement in February 2019, US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un have not tried to move forward to having a third summit.
When Trump went to Singapore in June 2018 for a summit with Kim, there were two different evaluations of the event. One side argued that it was meaningless for Trump to have a meeting with Kim, who would never give up his country’s nuclear program. The other side argued that people needed to support Trump’s efforts to make North Korea’s denuclearization happen.
Mostly South Koreans complimented Trump’s powerful drive for a meeting with Kim at that time because no sitting US president had ever tried to have a conversation directly with North Korea before. Also, even though some people were not optimistic about the summit, many South Koreans believed that the declaration of the end of the Korean War could happen through the summit. However, the two countries ended up in indefinite deadlock and no one can predict when Trump and Kim will have a third summit to talk again about economic sanctions against North Korea and denuclearization.
Both the conservative and progressive South Korean press have estimated since the Hanoi summit that the relationship between the US and North Korea may be getting worse than before. Joongang Ilbo and Chosun Ilbo, prominent conservative media outlets, have published stories that could make people question the role of President Moon Jae-in on handling the issues between the US and North Korea. KyungHyang, one of the major progressive newspapers, also published an article about John Hamre, the president of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, who argued that the relationship between the US and North Korea would not get any better until after the US presidential election in November.
All these may be valid points, but the press also should report something new rather than the same old stories that Trump’s moves will not work. Everyone know by now that it will be hard to persuade Kim to give up the North’s nuclear weapons.
After the Singapore summit, the North’s Korean Central News Agency tried to report its news about the US carefully. However, it started using strong words again after the Hanoi summit, pressing not only the US but also South Korea to push harder for an end of the sanctions. People who are interested in such issues know well why North Korea started using harsh words against the US and South Korea again.
It is no longer surprising that North Korea says it will restart its missile development program. However, when US Defense Secretary Mark Esper announces officially to the press that the Americans are ready to fight against North Korea any time, that just complicates things even further. Obviously the US is much stronger than North Korea and well prepared for war, but it is necessary for US government officials to think about how to handle North Korea’s officials and politicians more wisely and effectively to make them come back to the table for talks on denuclearization.
Trump and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo have to prepare more seriously on this issue. North Korea is looking for a specific reason to come back to the table. Kim may be a dictator, but he still needs a strong pretext to counter the disagreements in his country due to the failure of the Hanoi summit. Pompeo should suggest something persuasive so that they can talk about dismantling North Korea’s nuclear arsenal permanently.
The United States is the most powerful country in the world. Therefore, the international community needs the US to work hard on bringing peace in a region where conflicts and civil wars have taken place. Trump’s recent decision to assassinate Iran’s top military leader, Qasem Soleimani, to solve the issues with Iran was not the best option. Military options cannot be the best solution even though this particular operation was successful. Some media have started reporting news about North Korea fearing that Trump might proceed with a similar military operation against its leaders.
Given the circumstances in the Middle East, some people may think that Trump’s move was inevitable. However, Trump should always remind himself that military options must be the final step for solving issues that cannot be dealt with any other way, and he must handle the case of North Korea differently to bring about permanent peace in the Korean Peninsula.