Next steps in US-North Korea diplomacy, including new engagement
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un have given few details about North Korea’s pledge to work towards denuclearisation, American plans to end “war games” with South Korea or security guarantees Washington has promised Pyongyang.
Here is an outline of how events may unfold after the first summit between the leaders of the United States and North Korea.
NEW CONTACT ‘FAIRLY QUICKLY’
After the Singapore summit ended on Tuesday, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo travelled to Seoul to confer with South Korean officials. He next flies to Beijing for consultations with Chinese officials.
Speaking in Seoul, Pompeo said he expected the United States and North Korea to resume contacts within the next week or so.
“I would anticipate it will be fairly quickly after we return to our home countries,” he said. “I don’t know exactly what form that will take, but I’m very confident that by some time in the next week or so we will begin the engagement.”
Pompeo also sought to blunt criticism that Trump gave away too much – including even holding the meeting with the North Korean leader and making a promise to end US-South Korean military exercises – in return for too little.
In their joint statement, North Korea committed “to work towards complete denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula.” That fell short of previous North Korean promises, including a September 2005 statement in which Pyongyang “committed to abandoning all nuclear weapons and existing nuclear programs.”
Pompeo said the two sides reached “understandings” on many issues that were not captured in the leaders’ statement.
“There was a great deal of work done that is beyond what was seen in the final document that will be the place that we will begin when we return to our conversations,” Pompeo said.
Pompeo, White House national security adviser John Bolton “and/or the entire team” will get together next week to go over details “and to get this stuff done,” Trump said on Tuesday.
Trump said verification would be achieved only by “having a lot of people” in North Korea, but he provided no details on how the United States might confirm Pyongyang was keeping its word.
DEEPENING SOUTH-NORTH TIES
South Korea is pushing ahead with its efforts to promote ties with the North, although those plans remain tied to progress in US-North Korea talks.
At their first summit in April, South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korea’s Kim Jong Un pledged to take a number of steps to promote Korean reconciliation.
In the coming days, officials from North and South Korea will meet for working-level talks to discuss some of those steps, including military hotlines, family reunions of Koreans divided since the Korean War and sports exchanges.
Some more major exchanges, such as joint economic projects or infrastructure development, remain restricted by international sanctions on Pyongyang.
“The problem with inter-Korean reconciliation projects is that sanctions will not be lifted if there’s no implementation of denuclearisation,” said Shin Beomchul, senior fellow at Seoul’s Asian Institute for Policy Studies think tank. “Hence, the important thing next for inter-Korean relations would be the speed that sanctions are lifted.”
After the summit on Tuesday, Trump said that “sanctions will remain in effect” until North Korea’s nuclear weapons are removed.
KIM AT WHITE HOUSE, TRUMP IN PYONGYANG?
Trump also said he looked forward to visiting Pyongyang, and that he had invited Kim to the White House, with both visits to occur “at the appropriate time.”
“He has accepted. I said, at the appropriate time. We want to go a little bit further down the road,” Trump said.
The White House declined to elaborate on Trump’s comments about the timing. One opportunity for Kim to visit might come in September for the annual U.N. General Assembly gathering of world leaders in New York.
The United States, as host nation for the United Nations, is largely obligated to provide visas for foreign leaders.
WAR GAMES ON HOLD?
The Trump administration still appeared to be working out just what the president meant by his declaration on Tuesday that he intended to end joint military exercises with South Korea.
The decision took US and South Korean defence officials by surprise. In Washington, US officials pondered how to ensure their troops remain ready to fight while adhering to Trump’s plan.
An early test of Trump’s new policy could come with Exercise Ulchi Freedom Guardian, a largely computer-simulated, large-scale exercise in South Korea that last year took place in August and involved 17,500 US forces joining South Korean troops.