Following their historic meeting in Singapore last June, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and US President Donald Trump are preparing for another summit in late February. Their negotiators are now working on what the two heads of state might discuss and agree on. The big-picture goal on the US side is to convince Pyongyang to completely give up its nuclear weapons program. North Korea’s goals are more complex, and negotiations will get even trickier this year.
Kim Jong-un’s aims and likely negotiating tactics for the next summit can be gleaned from two recent events. First, the North Korean leader’s New Year’s speech on January 1 gave a sense of his game plan. Second, his summit with Chinese President Xi Jinping in the second week of January served as a first step in operationalizing that plan, and offered further clues on how he will try to achieve his ambitions. Together they show a leader who will work fervently to negotiate a peace regime that replaces the Korean War armistice; denuclearize the entire Korean Peninsula (not just the North); and create the conditions for one Korea unified under the North Korean flag, a national objective dating back to his grandfather Kim Il-sung. All three goals share a common denominator: Kim wishes to break the US-South Korea alliance and eventually rid the peninsula entirely of the American presence.
Kim on the year ahead. After a chaotic 2017 during which Trump and Kim threatened each other and their countries with nuclear annihilation, Kim began 2018 with a peace offensive, participating in the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang and expressing a desire for better relations with Seoul. As of the beginning of 2019, he is pushing the peace campaign to new heights and using it to craft a public image of himself as a peacemaker, in an effort to get US and UN sanctions on his country lifted. But Kim’s speech also made clear that US and North Korean definitions of peace do not necessarily correspond.
Read the full article in Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.
More from CNAS
CommentaryNorth Korea’s “tactical-guided” ballistic missile test is no joke for Biden and South Korea
The global consequences and stakes are too high to allow the regime’s nuclear weapons program to advance even further....
By Duyeon Kim
CommentaryMun Chol Myong: The First-Ever North Korean Criminal Facing Extradition to the US
Southeast Asia will most likely continue to grapple with North Korean sanctions evasions and financial crime, but now the region has a new precedent to build upon....
By Jason Bartlett
PodcastDecoding Kim Jong Un’s Latest Show of Strength
Duyeon Kim joins WPR’s Elliot Waldman on the Trend Lines podcast this week to break down the multilayered messaging from the recent party congress and what to expect from Nort...
By Duyeon Kim
CommentarySharper: North Korea
For decades, North Korea's authoritarian dictatorship has threatened Northeast Asia's regional stability, challenged U.S. interests, and subjected its own citizens to an unpar...
By Joshua Fitt, Jason Bartlett, Chris Estep, Cole Stevens & Kristine Lee