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Summit jitters

May 18,2018
The United States has hinted at the possibility of employing a “North Korean model” to achieve its denuclearization. We can hardly dispel our concerns. White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the denuclearization will be sought in Trump’s way, adding, “There’s not a cookie-cutter model on how this works.” She made the remarks after North Korean First Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Kim Kye-gwan expressed opposition to the so-called Libyan model for denuclearization — denuclearization first and compensation later — and raised the possibility of canceling the June 12 summit in Singapore between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

What the “North Korean model” really means is not known. But we have expectations that it could refer to creation of effective methods tailored to the recalcitrant state. With regards to denuclearizing North Korea, many solutions, including the Libyan, Kazakh and South African models, have been discussed. Such methods naturally reflected those countries’ individual situations. As such methods can hardly fit North Korea, we welcome Washington’s suggestion of a new model.

But we have plenty of worries too. We wonder if the Trump administration would merely stop at meeting U.S. interests without considering our security. Some U.S. media outlets point out that Trump has a strong desire to take advantage of the summit to polish his diplomatic legacy. So he could be tempted to focus on displaying a “grand diplomatic show” rather than faithfully pursuing denuclearization of North Korea. In that case, he could be tempted to strike a deal with Kim and settle for removing ICBMs allegedly capable of striking the U.S. mainland.

Trumps showed a prudent response to the North Korean minister’s threat to cancel the summit, saying, “We’ll see what happens. Time will tell.” Despite a commitment to put maximum pressure on North Korea, Sanders expressed a willingness to continue negotiations with Pyongyang after drawing a line between the Libyan model and so-called North Korean model. Considering that, the summit is not likely to be called off. On top of that, a North Korean minister threatened to cancel it, not the government.

Washington and Pyongyang are battling over details of denuclearization. Their war of nerves will deepen with less than a month before the summit. Nevertheless, we hope Trump does his best to achieve complete denuclearization in a deal of the century.

JoongAng Ilbo, May 18, Page 30