June 2019 | KF-VUB KOREA CHAIR POLICY BRIEF
Getting Back to Singapore (Issue 2019/06)
Dr. John Delury
If Singapore opened the door to real progress, why do we find ourselves, a year later, seemingly stuck once again in the all-too-familiar quagmire of frustrating negotiations with North Korea? Since Singapore, Trump frequently comes back to the refrain of doing a deal with Kim, and when he talks about “the relationship”, he refers to his personal relationship with Kim Jong-un. For Kim Jong-un, on the other hand, the relationship in need of transformation is not with the person of Donald Trump, but with the United States of America. Kim has to look beyond Trump and beyond a “deal”. Trump is trying to negotiate what is, essentially, a business deal whereby the United States buys out North Korea’s nukes, at an acceptable cost, by leveraging the pressure of sanctions and promise of foreign investment. But Kim is not looking for a deal in that sense. Kim is trying to navigate a new relationship wherein the United States views and treats North Korea as a friend. Changing the relationship takes time—it cannot be done in a meeting or two. Read more.
US-North Korea Relations on the Anniversary of the First Trump-Kim Summit (Issue 2019/07)
Dr. Robert E. Kelly
A year after the first summit between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un, little has changed in the strategic situation in Korea. The North has retained its nuclear weapons, missiles, and forward conventional force structure, while the US has similarly given up nothing substantial. The Korean status quo is deeply enduring and not simply subject to presidential whim. The stalemate is due to both sides’ refusal to make genuinely painful concessions. The US has repeatedly demand complete, verifiable, irreversible disarmament upfront for vague future guarantees. The North will not foolishly do that, but Pyongyang’s offers have been similarly fanciful. Engagement boosters will argue that talks curtailed war in 2017 and are progress in themselves. But Trump ginned up that crisis unnecessarily, and talking to the North is just process not substance. On substance, very little has changed since Trump entered office, no matter the war-threats of 2017 and flattery of 2018. This will persist as long the political and strategic gaps between the two sides are enormous. It would be better to resume talks at the expert working level to forge small, manageable deals in the place of all-or-nothing summits. Read more.