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Editorial: Kim Jong Un must decide to move forward with denuclearization

One year has passed since the first-ever U.S.-DPRK summit held in Singapore. Bilateral negotiations over North Korea’s denuclearization have stalled, but there seem to be moves to seek a breakthrough. In order to hold a U.S.-DPRK summit again, the North Korean regime must decide to denuclearize the country.


More than 3,000 reporters gathered from all over the world in Singapore where the first bilateral summit was held.


That was because the international community had high expectations for progress on the issue of denuclearization and for a declaration by the two leaders officially ending the Korean War, which has engendered a chilly standoff on the Korean Peninsula. 


However, there was no concrete progress. The second summit held in Hanoi at the end of February this year even ended with no agreement at all.


Expectations have quickly faded and there is no prospect for a third summit. This is very regrettable.


At the center of confrontation is the way to denuclearize the DPRK. While the U.S. puts priority on achieving comprehensive denuclearization, North Korea demands that economic sanctions be lifted first.


The long-term economic sanctions on North Korea have hurt the country. The DPRK’s exports to China in 2018 dropped by 90% from the previous year and North Korea is suffering a foreign currency shortage. Due to the impact of the record-setting drought, food shortages are also a concern in the country. 


Recently, Workers’ Party of Korea Chairman Kim Jong Un seems conspicuously frustrated. He is attempting to strengthen relationships with China and Russia, but the U.S., the crucial player for North Korea, seems to have no sense of urgency.


If the current situation is left as is, confrontation and military tension as seen in the past may grip the Korean Peninsula again.


A faint hope is the connection between the two leaders. U.S. President Donald Trump disclosed that he received a “beautiful letter” from Chairman Kim. It is conjectured that the North Korean leader asked the president for a summit meeting. 


In response to the death of Lee Hee-ho, the widow of former South Korean President Kim Dae-jun, Chairman Kim sent his trusted younger sister Kim Yo Jong, the first vice director of the Workers’ Party of Korea, to Panmunjom to pay his condolences to South Korea’s high-ranking officials.


As North Korea has criticized South Korea as “closer to the U.S” and avoided contacting the ROK, the latest move can be as a signal to resume the North-South dialogue.


South Korean President Moon Jae-in and President Trump are scheduled to meet at the end of this month. This may lead to a move toward a third U.S.-DPRK summit.


Due to the stalled negotiations between the U.S. and North Korea, more experts familiar with bilateral relations think that Chairman Kim will not agree to denuclearize the DPRK.


If North Korea starts taking provocative actions again, a third summit between the U.S. and the DPRK will further away. We hope Chairman Kim will take the first specific step toward denuclearization.


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