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No more deviation

May 31,2018
The United States and North Korea are accelerating preparations for what would be an historic summit in Singapore between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. In Panmunjom, the two sides are having discussions to determine the agenda for the summit, and in Singapore, they are discussing issues involving security and protocol.

In the meantime, Kim Yong-chol, vice chairman of the North’s Workers’ Party and chief of the United Front Department, is visiting New York to help finalize an agenda for the summit. His trip to America on Wednesday and Thursday is the first for such a high-ranking North Korean official since Jo Myong-rok, a top North Korean military official, traveled to Washington in 2000 on a mission.

Kim Yong-chol is expected to finalize an agenda for the summit. Earlier, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visited Pyongyang and met with North Korea’s leader twice, but apparently could not reach agreement on some thorny issues involving denuclearization and rewards. Kim Yong-chol will most likely bring his boss’s final answers to Washington’s demand for complete, verifiable and irreversible dismantlement (CVID) of the North’s nuclear weapons.

We hope he delivers acceptable answers. If the issue cannot be resolved on Kim’s trip to New York, Pompeo may need to visit Pyongyang once again to finally fix the agenda in a third face-to-face meeting with Kim Jong-un. That would not be desirable for Pyongyang given its desire for a summit with Trump as soon as possible.

Considering that he was dispatched to the United States as Kim Jong-un’s envoy, we cannot rule out the possibility of Kim Yong-chol meeting with Trump. If the meeting takes place, we hope the emissary expresses an irrevocable commitment to denuclearization and that Trump, in return, vows to offer a compensation package, including a guarantee of regime security, so that both leaders can have a successful summit in Singapore.

What concerns us is North Korea is demanding that 12 North Korean defectors be repatriated after they already became South Korean citizens. Our Unification Ministry expressed an intention to “solve the problem through dialogue.” If the government agrees to discuss their fate to curry favor with North Korea, that’s a big problem. As long as Pyongyang makes unreasonable demands, the international society will doubt its sincerity about denuclearization.

JoongAng Ilbo, May 31, Page 30