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A lot at stake

Feb 07,2019
A second U.S.-North Korea summit will be held in Vietnam for two days, from Feb. 27 to 28. U.S. President Donald Trump made it official in his State of the Union address Tuesday. We welcome the development as the summit can pave the way for denuclearizing North Korea after negotiations bogged down following the first summit in Singapore between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un last June.

On Wednesday, Stephen Biegun, the U.S. special representative for North Korea policy, flew into Pyongyang to kick off negotiations for the summit with his new counterpart, Kim Hyok-chol, the former North Korean ambassador to Spain. As the date for the summit has been fixed, both sides can strike a deal more easily than before. We hope they come up with concrete results in their negotiations over the steps North Korea should take in return for U.S. proposals.

Even if both sides fail to narrow their differences at the level of senior officials, Trump and Kim Jong-un must strike a big deal in Vietnam. Given North Korea’s peculiar power structure, its officials inevitably have limits in negotiations. Therefore, we hope Kim makes a monumental decision at the summit to achieve peace on the Korean Peninsula and help develop the North Korean economy, which has been hit hard by international sanctions.

Kim must keep in mind that his second summit with Trump is his last chance to bring opening and economic development to his closed nation. The first summit in Singapore was meaningful as both leaders agreed on a peaceful resolution of the nuclear conundrum. It is different this time: If both sides stop short of specifying tangible actions, the Korean Peninsula could return to the tense climate characterized by the North’s nuclear threats seen in 2017. Trump’s patience will certainly run out.

Vietnam can serve as a role model for North Korea. Having fought a war with the United States, it turned to a reform path known as Doi Moi and succeeded in achieving marvelous economic development. Thanks to that move, Vietnam could end U.S. sanctions. Kim Jong-un must listen to U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s advice, that North Korea can follow the Vietnamese model.

The second summit will surely serve as a watershed moment for North Korea — whether it can follow in Vietnam’s footsteps or return to confrontation with Uncle Sam. Not only the two Koreas and the United States, but China and Japan should also make efforts for a successful summit in Vietnam.

JoongAng Ilbo, Feb. 7, Page 30