On an interview with Reuters on Monday, U.S. President Donald Trump said “It is most likely” that he will hold a second summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. As much as there were no additional remarks, the summit has not been settled in detail but it is a progress compared to his remark earlier this month that he would like to meet Kim soon by disclosing the letter from the North Korean leader. Against this backdrop, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s possible fourth visit to North Korea as a turning point for U.S.-North Korea talks on denuclearization is expected to gain much attention.
Ever since the historic North Korea–U.S. summit on June 12, President Trump’s position has been constant. Even during the latest interview, he said “I like him. He likes me” and answered “I do believe they have” when asked whether North Korea has taken specific steps to denuclearize. This is contrary to the general assessment that actions such as the withdrawal of nuclear test site is irrelevant to substantial denuclearization. Moreover, there are concerns that another round of North Korea–U.S. summit may become an election event for President Trump as the November midterm congressional elections draw closer.
North Korea is making the most of domestic politics in the United States. The hermit nation, which criticized the United States that it “presented denuclearization request like a robber” after Pompeo's third visit to the North in July, is now demanding declaration of the end of June 25 war and alleviation of sanctions against the country. Recently, even Kim Jong Un took part in expressing his dissatisfaction against the United States and the United Nations mentioning “robber-like sanctions,” and at the same time urging to come up with a "unique method," a top-down style of solution through summits.
Moreover, Kim Jong Un appears to make "Pyeongyang of September" a flashy center of diplomacy. Chinese President Xi Jinping’s Pyongyang visit on Sept. 9 for the anniversary of establishing the North Korean regime is quite possible and the inter-Korean summit is highly likely to be held soon afterwards. With the second North Korea-U.S. summit confirmed hereto, Kim Jong Un will be at the center of the second round of the Korean Peninsula’s summit diplomacy. Seemingly, North Korea has calculated that if North Korea creates an atmosphere of alleviating sanctions by persuading China and South Korea, the United States would not have much of a choice.
If Kim fails to present a list of nuclear waste and timeline during Pompeo’s visit to the North, however, there shall not be any breakthrough, not to mention the second North Korea–U.S. summit. Under the situation, Kim Jong Un cannot have any meaningful outcome from its summit meetings with Chinese and South Korean leaders. Even if such summits were to be held, they would go in vain and could take the risk of being used for North Korea's gains. What those nations ought to embark on at this moment is to continuously question North Korea’s sincerity over complete denuclearization.