President Donald Trump quickly agreed to the unprecedented meeting. National Security Advisor Chung read from a prepared statement, underscoring South Korea’s optimism that a peaceful solution and permanent denuclearization of the Korean peninsula can be reached. The South Korean envoy has also ensured that Pyongyang will not perform any new missile launches before the meeting with President Trump. Although the talks mark a major shift in the geopolitical sphere, President Donald Trump has said sanctions against the regime will remain in place.
Donald Trump Takes a Different Approach
President Trump’s meeting with the communist dictator marks a significant change in North Korean policy from previous administrations. For years, the official US policy on North Korea was “strategic patience.” President Trump ruffled the feathers of Washington political analysts and political pundits with what many called a “belligerent” policy on North Korea, underscored by mocking tweets targeting Kim Jong-un. The president often referred to the brutal dictator as “Little Rocket Man.” After President Donald Trump threatened to “totally destroy” North Korea at a UN speech, Kim Jong-un called the President a “mentally deranged US dotard.”
After the historic announcement was made, President Donald Trump tweeted:
Kim Jong Un talked about denuclearization with the South Korean Representatives, not just a freeze. Also, no missile testing by North Korea during this period of time. Great progress being made but sanctions will remain until an agreement is reached. Meeting being planned!
In the past, the Trump administration had indicated they would not be willing to sit down for talks with Kim Jong-un unless North Korea indicated willingness to relinquish their nuclear weapons. To most, this sounded like an unbelievable fantasy, but after Monday’s meeting between North Korea and the delegation from Seoul, the negotiations have suddenly become a distinct possibility.
On the other hand, Kim Jong-un dropped his precondition for the meeting. The communist leader has previously said the US and South Korea must end their joint military exercises before he would agree to talks. Chung read from a statement indicating Kim Jong-un has reversed his position, “He [Kim Jong-un] understands that the routine joint military exercises between the Republic of Korea and the United States must continue.”
It seems the Trump administration was almost as surprised as everyone else that talks between the two leaders are in the works.
Just earlier this week Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the US was nowhere near entering into negotiations with Pyongyang. “We’re a long ways from negotiations, we just need to be very clear-eyed and realistic about it.”
Following the announcement, Secretary of State Tillerson, who is currently on a tour of Africa, said the meeting will take a few weeks to prepare. He indicated his surprise that the renegade communist leader seemed to be taking a proactive stance in his meeting with the US:
What changed was his posture in a fairly dramatic way. In all honesty, that came as a little bit of a surprise to us, as well that he was so forward-leaning in his conversations with the delegation from South Korea.
Are the Sanctions Working?
Earlier this week, President Donald Trump said the UN sanctions have been “very, very strong and very biting.” Reports indicate North Korean exports were down 30% last year, 35% with their biggest trading partner, China. As Pyongyang continues to be slapped with sanctions and existing measures are implemented more thoroughly, their economy can only be expected to suffer more greatly. The Asian market did, however, respond positively to the news that North Korea may be willing to surrender their nuclear weapons.
For months, it has seemed that the UN sanctions have been literally starving out Pyongyang. As the regime continued to pour more money into their nuclear program, while sanctions strangled their already weak economy, reports from South Korea surfaced of starving soldiers risking it all to sneak across the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), indicating the regime may be losing its grip over the infamous One Million Man Army. Civilian defectors have claimed the already small daily rations were slashed, while wildlife previously relied on for food has been destroyed by nuclear testing. Following UN sanctions against seafood, fishermen in North Korea lost their livelihood, leading to more hungry people for the regime to feed.
White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders confirmed President Donald Trump’s tweet issuing a statement saying, “We look forward to the denuclearisation of North Korea. In the meantime, all sanctions and maximum pressure must remain.”
New US sanctions were announced this week due to evidence Pyongyang used a banned chemical agent in the successful assassination of the dictator’s half-brother.
The South Korean Envoy
South Korea’s President Moon is said to have hand selected the delegation sent to Pyongyang, with the purpose of opening diplomatic channels between the US and North Korea. The envoy was led by a veteran diplomat with close ties to the US, National Security Advisor Chung Eui-yong.
National Intelligence Service Chief Suh Hoon was also part of the South Korean delegation. Suh, South Korea’s top spy chief, has a history of successfully negotiating talks between Pyongyang and Seoul and even personally met with the late Kim Jong-il several times.
The two South Korean officials, accompanied by Cho Yoon-je, ambassador to the US, made the announcement on the White House lawn, unaccompanied by any American figures, allowing the the historical moment to remain a South Korean diplomatic triumph.
The surprise agreement comes a few weeks after South Korea hosted the 2018 Winter Olympics. The Olympics forced the respective governments of the Korean peninsula into talks ahead of the winter games, as South Korea was eager to ensure no further missile launches or nuclear testing would occur during the international sporting event.
If the meeting is carried out, President Donald Trump will be the first sitting US president to meet with a North Korean leader. The meeting is expected to take place before the end of May.