‘Kim looks forward to meeting me’ – Trump
Received message last night from XI JINPING of China that his meeting with KIM JONG UN went very well and that KIM looks forward to his meeting with me. In the meantime, and unfortunately, maximum sanctions and pressure must be maintained at all cost!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) 28 марта 2018 г.
Kim’s trip to China this week was the 34-year-old leader’s first foreign visit since he assumed office in 2011. The trip more than likely served as a warm-up to summits with the United States and South Korea in the coming months.
According to China’s Xinhua News Agency, Kim pledged to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula, and in return Xi pledged to maintain China’s long-standing alliance with the pariah nation.
"The issue of denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula can be resolved, if South Korea and the United States respond to our efforts with goodwill, create an atmosphere of peace and stability while taking progressive and synchronous measures for the realization of peace," Xinhua quoted Kim as saying. Trump appeared to share Kim’s optimistic outlook.
For years and through many administrations, everyone said that peace and the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula was not even a small possibility. Now there is a good chance that Kim Jong Un will do what is right for his people and for humanity. Look forward to our meeting!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) 28 марта 2018 г.
Despite the apparent goodwill between both sides, former US ambassador Robert Gallucci – who helped broker the framework on nuclear weapons between the Clinton administration and Kim’s father, Kim Jong-il – warned Trump against trusting Pyongyang. Gallucci said that in his experience, “they will cheat” on any deal, adding that he is "not particularly optimistic" this time around.
Nevertheless, the current climate of detente, which began with both Koreas performing as one nation at the PyeongChang Winter Olympic games last month, is an about-turn from the tit-for-tat escalation of recent months.
At the height of the war of words between Washington and Pyongyang, Trump dubbed Kim “little rocket man” and threatened to rain "fire and fury like the world has never seen" onto North Korea.
In return, Kim called Trump a “dotard” and continued to ramp up his regime’s ballistic missile testing.
A meeting between Trump and Kim is provisionally scheduled for May, with the North Korean leader due to meet his South Korean counterpart, Moon Jae-in, in late April. Moon has said that if talks go well, he would be open to three-party discussions on denuclearization in the following months.
Moon and Kim’s meeting will take place in the Panmunjom ‘truce village,’ inside the Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) that separates the two countries. No location has yet been slated for a Trump-Kim summit.
No living US president has ever met with a North Korean leader, and Washington and Pyongyang can probably be ruled out as potential locations. With so much at stake, neither leader would likely be willing to venture into his opponent’s stronghold.
Any meeting at the Panmunjom village could also be off the table. Such a location would give South Korea influence and would likely bring back unpleasant memories from the 1976 ‘Axe Murder Incident,’ when North Korean troops murdered two US troops who cut down a tree the North claimed was planted by ‘Eternal President’ Kim Il-sung.
Beijing has been floated as a potential location. However, the US may be reluctant to allow China to influence the talks in any way. The meeting may have to take place in a neutral location, perhaps in international waters.
As for the content of the talks, the North’s new nuclear reactor, seen in satellite imagery earlier this year, is expected to be a bone of contention, as is Trump’s unwillingness to honor his predecessor’s nuclear deal with Iran.
In a briefing hosted last week by the US-Korea Institute, senior fellow at New America Suzanne DiMaggio said that the US should assure Kim that regime change is not its objective, while maintaining its opposition to any further missile testing.