Trump-Kim meet: Time to look back

Bill Bredesen –
US President Donald Trump will be under particular pressure to deliver tangible signs of progress when he meets North Korean leader Kim Jong Un for denuclearisation talks in Hanoi next week.
After their first summit in June in Singapore, the leaders signed a vaguely worded joint declaration as they pledged a new era in the two countries’ relations.
Eight months after that historic meeting, only some of their promises have been fulfilled. Others — including the key issue of North Korea’s nuclear weapons programme — remain unresolved, with analysts seeing few signs of meaningful progress.
As the two leaders prepare to meet on February 27, here is a look back at their pledges from last year in Singapore, and whether they were kept or broken.
Under the joint agreement signed in Singapore, Kim reaffirmed Pyongyang’s “firm and unwavering commitment to complete denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula” although the declaration did not specify what steps both sides would take towards this goal.
The US and North Korea have continued to engage in dialogue, with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo travelling to North Korea four times last year to meet with senior leadership, including Kim.
According to North Korean media accounts, those talks have ranged from “very disappointing” to “productive and wonderful.”
Pyongyang has resorted at times to the more aggressive rhetoric that once typified US-North Korea relations, accusing Pompeo of “gangster-like” behaviour and threatening “to seek a new way if the US does not make good on its promises [or] misjudges our patience.”
Kim had also vowed to recover the remains of US prisoners from the 1950-53 Korean War, including the “immediate repatriation of those already identified.”
The following month, Pyongyang transferred the remains of 55 US soldiers to American custody, partially fulfilling the pledge, and prompting Trump to thank “Chairman Kim for keeping his word.”
However, thousands of US soldiers who fought in the Korean War are still unaccounted for, and it is unclear whether Pyongyang intends to continue working to repatriate more remains.
In Singapore, Trump said he would “absolutely” invite Kim to visit the White House. That has not happened, but Trump did welcome top North Korean negotiator Kim Yong Chol to the Oval Office last month.
Shortly after that meeting, the president announced he would meet Kim Jong Un for a second summit in February.
Kim also invited Trump to Pyongyang after their meeting in Singapore,and Trump reportedly accepted.
Trump has praised his relationship with Kim, saying he and the North Korean leader “fell in love” after their initial meeting.
“The world will see a major change,” Kim said last June in Singapore as he signed the “historic” agreement with Trump. The US president promised the denuclearisation process would start “very soon.”
Yet just last month, US intelligence officials concluded that North Korea “is unlikely to completely give up its nuclear weapons and productive capabilities,” the US Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats told the Senate Intelligence Committee.
In December, North Korean state media cast doubt on the process when it sharply criticised a new round of US sanctions on North Korean officials, saying the move could “block the path to denuclearisation on the Korean peninsula forever.”
Trump’s public optimism about North Korea has veered at times into overstatement. Upon returning home from his meeting with Kim last June, the president wrote on Twitter: “There is no longer a Nuclear Threat from North Korea.”
Top US military officials have contradicted that assessment as recently as last week.
“We think it is unlikely that North Korea will give up all of its nuclear weapons or production capabilities, but seeks to negotiate partial denuclearisation in exchange for US and international concessions,” said Admiral Philip Davidson, the commander of US Indo-Pacific Command.
— dpa