(Written in conjunction with Daibik Chakraborty, Niccolo Esquivelzeta Sohn, Luke Kim)
In recent times, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, also known as North Korea, has shown a willingness to begin negotiations with other countries regarding the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula as well as beginning diplomatic relations between South Korea as well as the United States. On April 27, 2018, the inter-Korean summit took place, which saw the Supreme leader of North Korea, Kim Jong Un, meet with the President of South Korea, Moon Jae In. The inter-Korean summit led to the creation of the Panmunjom Declaration, in which both leaders pledged to work towards the denuclearization of the peninsula, formally end the Korean War by the end of the year, allow separated families to visit each other, cease propaganda broadcasts, and to increase communications between the two nations. On March 8, 2018, the White House confirmed that a meeting between President Donald Trump and Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un would take place. The North Korea-United States summit is planned for June 12, 2018 in Singapore.
The North Korea-United States summit was threatened to be cancelled due to disputes over the continued joint US and South Korean military exercises. On May 24, 2018, President Trump announced in an open letter that he would be backing out of the summit due to hostilities stemming from the dispute. On May 25, North Korean Foreign Minister Kim Kye-gwan stated that it was still willing to meet with the United States. On the same day, President Trump stated that the proposed summit could still happen. On May 26, Kim Jong Un and Moon Jae In met to discuss the North Korea-United States summit. After further meetings between U.S. and North Korean officials in North Korea, Singapore, and New York City, President Trump announced that the summit would happen after being delivered a personal letter from Kim Jong Un by North Korean general Kim Yong-chol.
North Korea has presented certain prerequisites during a pre-summit meeting that it believed must be fulfilled before the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula could occur. These prerequisites include the guaranteed safety of North Korea from South Korean/American attacks, the guarantee that South Korea and America would not deploy nuclear weapon assets in the Korean peninsula, the termination of nuclear weapons operation and development during South Korean/American combined military training, the formal ending of the Korean War, and beginning diplomatic relations between North Korea and the U.S. North Korea has also expressed interest in removing the economic sanctions placed on it by the United Nations such as coal, petroleum, seafood, and other products, removing its name from the list of state-sponsors of terrorism, and receiving aid to develop its mining industry. It has stated that it would allow the United States Forces Korea (USFK) to continue to be stationed in South Korea as long as the safety of North Korea is guaranteed. North Korea has also stated that it would end nuclear and missile tests, with the last known test being conducted over four months ago.
The United States has shown interest in laying out plans for denuclearization during the summit. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has stated that the US would not lift economic sanctions until North Korea had permanently and irreversibly dismantled its nuclear capabilities. President Trump stated that he would discontinue the use of the term “maximum pressure” when describing the US foreign policy towards North Korea, which has currently been focused on placing multiple economic sanctions in an attempt to pressure North Korea into denuclearization.
South Korean officials have suggested that President Moon could join the discussion at the summit. Defense Minister Song Young-moo believes that the summit is crucial to the denuclearization of the peninsula, and believes that denuclearization would be dependent on the support of the international community.
Japanese Foreign Minister Shinzo Abe has expressed concern over the discontinuation of the “maximum pressure” foreign policy, and over North Korea’s abduction of Japanese citizens in the 1970s and 1980s. Along with South Korean conservatives, Japan worries that North Korea would agree to give up their nuclear weapons but keep their short range ballistic missiles, which would put South Korea and Japan in potential danger.
Russia’s foreign minister Sergei Lavrov has invited Kim Jong Un to Moscow, and is to visit North Korea on June 7 before the US-NK summit to discuss North Korea’s foreign policy and the issues concerning the denuclearization of the peninsula. Russia supports the denuclearization process, but believes that the economic sanctions could be slowly lifted while the denuclearization process takes place.
China believes that the US-NK summit is the key to the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula, and is elated that progress towards that goal is being made.