+ A

Kim Jong-un’s choice

June 04,2018
The United States and North Korea have gone all-out to make the most of momentum toward a “new era of peace, prosperity and security.” After receiving a letter from North Korean leader Kim Jong-un delivered by Kim Yong-chol in Washington, President Donald Trump predicted that the meeting with Kim on June 12 in Singapore was set to be “ultimately a successful process.” The American relationship right now with North Korea “is as good as it has been in a long time,” Trump said after “talking about almost everything” in a two-hour conversation with Kim Yong-chol, whom he described as the “second most powerful man in North Korea.

“We’re not going to go in and sign something on June 12, and we never were,” he said. “And I told them today: Take your time. We can go fast. We can go slowly,” stressing that Washington won’t sign off on a merely a ceremonial deal.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo hosted a lavish meal for Kim Yong-chol in a Manhattan high-rise, and said the United States is persuading North Korean to envision a “strong, connected, and secure, prosperous” future if it commits itself to complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization.

Pompeo also said the denuclearization process faces “difficult, difficult challenge” and “there remains a great deal of work to do.” But “our mission is incredibly clear. It is to continue to push forward.

“One not ought to be surprised, or frightened, or deterred by moments where it looks like there are challenges and difficulties, things that can’t be bridged,” he continued. “Our mission is to bridge them so that we can achieve this historic outcome.”

At the end of the day, it’s up to Pyongyang and its leadership whether it is willing to choose a path fundamentally different from the one it has been on for decades, Pompeo said.

Having met and spoken with the North Korean leader twice and his right-hand man Kim Yong-chol three times, Pompeo said he believed “they are contemplating a path forward where they can make a strategic shift, one that their country has not been prepared to make before.”

The biggest stumbling block is the denuclearization method. Washington wants to solve the problem at once, while Pyongyang wants rewards-per-stages. Kim Jong-un meeting Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Pyongyang reiterated that he wishes to proceed with denuclearization in phases.

Washington demands clear actions, such as the surrender of nuclear weapons to the United States. Pyongyang reportedly is asking for a scaling down or suspension of South Korea-U.S. joint military drills. The decision is up to Kim. If he does not want the historical momentum to be wasted, Kim must commit to complete denuclearization.

JoongAng Sunday, June 2, Page 34