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Deal of the century?

June 12,2018
U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un may strike a “deal of the century” today in Singapore. The first-ever summit between the United States and the rogue state is quite different from past summits. Instead of simply fixing the remaining 5 percent of an agreement, the two leaders are expected to address nearly 95 percent of the agenda on their own.

The question is how to strike a balance between denuclearization and the assurance of regime security. As Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Sunday, Washington is pressuring Pyongyang to take a path toward a complete, verifiable and irreversible dismantlement (CVID) of its nuclear weapons. But North Korea is demanding security guarantees from the United States as a precondition for denuclearization. As one of the North’s state mouthpieces indicated, Pyongyang wants to find effective ways to end America’s hostilities through normalization of ties, establishment of a peace regimen and denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

Trump and Kim have a one-on-one meeting in the morning followed by a luncheon and an extended summit attended by their aides in the afternoon. Most security experts anticipate that the success of the summit will be determined in the early stages. Given Trump’s remarks that he will be able to determine Kim’s sincerity in one minute, he will likely take a quick-tempered approach to close a deal so that it can stipulate concrete steps — such as specification of the CVID principle, implementation of tangible actions, like shipping North Korean nuclear weapons to the United States in the initial stage of denuclearization, and fixing deadlines for each step — in the agreement.

Kim will likely have problems with a timetable, as suggested by media reports which said he would leave Singapore at 2 p.m. Tuesday or that he proposed to have a second summit in Pyongyang next month. That means North Korea wants to set a broad roadmap this time while leaving the details to be discussed later. In terms of security guarantees, Kim is eager to receive substantial compensation — such as a non-aggression pact, a declaration to end the Korean War, establishing diplomatic relations and easing up on economic sanctions — from Trump.

But in a summit, a party cannot win a one-sided victory. However, as both sides recognize the legitimacy of denuclearization, we hope they have a successful summit. We urge Kim to make a far-reaching decision. North Korea must be born again as a normal state after abandoning its “treasured sword” once and for all.

JoongAng Ilbo, June 12, Page 30